In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, in which a man who shot an unarmed teenager was found to have done so in self-defense, many people are wondering about the self-defense laws in their states.
In New York, a person who feels threatened has a duty to retreat without using deadly force from any area other than his or her home, if he or she can retreat safely. For example, if an individual approaches you in a dark alley holding a knife, if you can flee you have the duty to do so. If you are trapped in the alley and are being threatened, you can under law use deadly force to protect yourself if necessary. However, once the perceived threat is gone, the attack must stop. Deadly force can also be used if a person believes the perpetrator is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, rape or robbery.
A person can use non-deadly physical force in certain circumstances. If the victim believes the force is necessary to defend himself or a third person from the imminent use of unlawful physical force, he can use non-deadly physical force.
The rules about self-defense are different if you’re in your home. If you are in your home in New York and you reasonably believe that someone is trying to commit a burglary of the home, you may use deadly force if necessary to prevent or stop the burglary.