When Does Self-Defense Stop Being Self-Defense?

Chuko Sandoval told police officers that he stayed at a smoke shop in Las Cruces, NM, on a late December evening after purchasing something because another person was acting strangely in the store. It even made the clerks uncomfortable.

As the events unfolded, Anthony Malone tried to steal some watches from one of the store’s display cases. As Malone ran to the exit, Sandoval took out his gun, killing Malone.

Five months later, a grand jury indicted Sandoval on second-degree murder charges.

Was Sandoval acting in self-defense, even though Malone failed in his robbery attempt? That question is what creates hesitancy, which is why many are looking for non-lethal options to protect themselves and their property.

It Is a Question of Imminent Harm

In the instance with Sandoval and Malone, the question is one of harm. It doesn’t matter that a robbery was attempted. When Sandoval confronted Malone and told him to stop, Malone was trying to escape from the store.

Sandoval fired to prevent the escape. A jury can now decide the criminal liability of that decision.

If someone is trying to leave, your local self-defense statutes determine the potential liability of the situation. You might be protected if the escape is part of a crime, but it could also make you liable for any harm you cause.

Non-lethal self-defense options limit your liability. If Sandoval had sprayed Malone with a 3-in-1 pepper spray containing tear gas and a UV dye, it would have been easy for law enforcement to find and arrest him.

It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the concept. When you attack after the law believes an incident is over, then you’re the one facing possible charges.

Malone Did Not Have a Weapon on Him

Malone was facing a jury trial for using a gun to steal $45 from a Las Cruces convenience store in 2019. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Witness statements said that Malone didn’t have a weapon on him when Sandoval said he was acting in self-defense.

Whether you use a knife, a throwing star, or pepper spray to defend yourself, the action is about protecting yourself, others, or your property from harm. Once that potential for damage disappears, it is harder to claim this stance if someone gets hurt.

Traditional laws require a person being threatened or attacked to retreat, if possible, without taking any physical action. You’re allowed to use the force that a reasonable person would use to fend off the attack.

Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws change what may or might not be possible in each community. If you’ve had to act in self-defense, your next step should be to contact an attorney – even if you haven’t been charged with a crime. An experienced professional can advise you of your rights and the laws regarding your situation.

Before you get to that point, be sure to stock up on self-defense supplies so that you can protect yourself if someone tries to cause harm.

Please note this post is not conveying legal advice. You need to speak with an attorney if you need that.

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