What Are Wisconsin's Self-Defense Laws – Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

If someone comes up to you and punches you in the face, you have every right to defend yourself – that’s never been in dispute in Wisconsin.

But what happens when a person kills another person in self-defense? Will you be charged with a crime, and can you be convicted?

For most people, the best thing to do is get in touch with a Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer immediately after being accused of a crime. An attorney can protect your rights and work hard to get you the best possible outcome on your case.

What Are Wisconsin’s Self-Defense Laws?

Under Wisconsin law, you’re allowed to use self-defense to protect yourself by threatening to use force or by actually using force against someone, but only if:

  • You use only the force necessary to prevent or terminate interference with your person or someone else’s person.
  • You must reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself.

The word reasonably is a big deal, though – if your belief is unreasonable, you can still be charged with homicide. For example, if someone who’s unlikely to cause you great bodily harm or kill you comes after you with his or her fists and you end up killing that person, the jury in your case may find that your belief that you were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm was unreasonable.

In a case like that, the prosecutor would most likely try to show the jury that you could’ve deescalated the situation without killing the other person. He or she might suggest that you could’ve simply retreated from the situation. In other cases, the prosecutor might argue that you provoked the original attack.

What is Duty to Retreat?

Sometimes you have a duty to retreat from a situation. If you provoke an attack, you can’t claim self-defense unless you’ve exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from the situation. If you didn’t provoke the attack, the jury in your case will look at whether you had a chance to retreat from the situation in most cases. There are exceptions, though, such as when someone breaks into your home, vehicle or business; sometimes you don’t have the duty to retreat under the Castle Doctrine.

Could You Claim Self-Defense?

Self-defense can be extremely complicated, so for most people, the best course of action is to work with an attorney. Your lawyer can answer all your questions and create a defense strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.

If you’ve been accused of a crime and you were simply defending yourself, we may be able to help you. Call us right away at 414-383-6700 for a completely free, no-obligation legal consultation, no matter what crime you’ve been charged with.

Carlos Gamino