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Do you have a duty to retreat before acting to defend yourself?

Unless you have attended self-defense training, it is hard to predict how you will react when facing a threat. When someone brandishes a weapon, hits you or verbally threatens you, you may freeze. Some people’s first response is to try to leave the situation, while others become more assertive to defend themselves than others.

If you recently faced the threat of physical injury or criminal activity, you may have responded with physical force. Unfortunately, police officers responding to the scene may have misunderstood the situation. They may have arrested you for assault when your actions were in fact a response to the aggression or criminal behavior of someone else.

Your behavior before and during the interactions may influence whether or not you have a credible claim of self-defense. Do you have a duty to try to leave the situation before you use physical force?

South Dakota does not impose a duty to retreat

In some states, individuals in many places other than their own homes have to try to get away from someone threatening them or committing a crime before they resort to the use of physical force. This policy, called the duty to retreat, can prevent people from acting in self-defense or intervening for the protection of others.

In South Dakota, you do not have to retreat before defending yourself as long as you are in a place you have the lawful right to be. If the other party truly threatened you or initiated physical contact against you, you do not have to back up or try to leave before using your body to stop further aggression from the other party. However, you cannot claim to have acted in self-defense if you are the one who instigated the altercation.

Self-defense claims require proper development

Those fighting back against assault charges on the basis that they acted in self-defense will typically need evidence supporting their claim, even if it is their own testimony in court. You will also need to review the evidence the state intends to use to create the case against you. When you understand the different rules that apply to self-defense claims, like the potential duty to retreat, it is easier to develop a viable strategy for your defense.

Fighting back against South Dakota assault charges requires a plan based on state law and the evidence against you.