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The court of law permits a number of legal defenses that are permissible during regular criminal proceedings. These are the basis of what you will see your defense attorney perform for you in court. These defenses are the means by which the jury is to deliberate upon to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. The court will permit the use of these defenses when you face prosecution, and also outlines the guidelines of what it means to be eligible for the defense. These defenses, defined in RCW 9A.16, are not the only means by which you can be defended in court, however, they are legally provisioned and if you are able to qualify for their use, they may save you from conviction. Also outlined in the statute are guidelines on when use of force and even homicides are permissible or free from prosecution.


There may be times when you need to defend yourself, but the law does not pick sides in a fight, and officers will make the arrest on whomever they choose to. Suppose a night at the bar turns sour, and you find yourself involved in a physical altercation with someone. You have the right to protect yourself to a reasonable degree, and you may claim that you were defending yourself in the court of law. The statute reads that the use of force is lawful in this case:

"Whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary;"

It is, under most circumstances, illegal to use physical force on a person, but if you are making use of physical force to defend yourself it may hold as a defense in court, provided you did not exceed a reasonable amount than what is necessary for you to defend yourself. For instance, severely wounding or killing someone with a weapon during an altercation involving mere fisticuffs is usually much more force than necessary.

There are some circumstances, however, where deadly force can be permissible as well. Within the statute there is a clause stating excusable homicide, it reads:

"Homicide is excusable when committed by accident or misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means, without criminal negligence, or without any unlawful intent."

This covers unfortunate accidents, and death that may be wrongful but not necessarily criminal. If you are under a criminal threat, the law also makes its defense clear:

"Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:

(1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or

(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is."

This allows self-defense to be used in cases where you must defend yourself and you make use of lethal force to do so. If someone enters your home and presents an imminent danger to yourself or others in the area, you may make use of lethal force in your own defense. If you are met with this in court, self-defense can be valid so long as there was an imminent danger to you, or if you are resisting an attack. Remember, the law does not know that you were defending yourself, and if you are arrested on charges related to homicide as a result of self-defense, you will want a defense attorney right away.


When you are under duress, you are not acting of your own accord. The law defines duress as acting under another person who "created an apprehension" through use of threat or force that you would be "liable to immediate death or immediate grievous bodily injury" if you refused their orders. Duress is not a valid defense for:

  • The charges of murder, manslaughter, or homicide by abuse
  • You would have committed the crime without being under duress
  • You recklessly or intentionally put yourself in a position to be under duress
  • Duress does not mean that you acted under command of your spouse


Entrapment is when an officer essentially sets you up for a crime. This can be difficult to prove, as even if the officer creates the opportunity for the crime, he has not necessarily created a situation that constitutes entrapment. In order to have the defense of entrapment, the crime itself must have been the idea of law enforcement, or anyone acting under direction of law enforcement. You also must have been lured into committing a crime that you otherwise had no intent to commit. Because entrapment is not assumed by the officer creating a chance to commit the crime, your intent will be heavily discussed when making use of this defense.

It should be noted that there is actually specific legislation that states that intoxication is in any way a defense against any crime, unless that crime necessitates an actual sound mental state. This means that drunkenness or drug influence do not make your charges any less severe.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, do not go into the courtroom alone. Contact Steve Karimi today.

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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.