retreat rule – unless at home or at work, a victim of assault generally has a duty to retreat instead of using deadly force, so long as there is a safe avenue of escape

     This page is continued from Criminal Law Self-Help >>>> Various Crimes and Corresponding Laws >>>> Various Forms of Homicide >>>> Forms of Noncriminal Homicide >>>> Excusable Homicide >>>> Justifiable Homicide >>>> Rules of Self-Defense – Justifiable or Unjustifiable?:


retreat to the wall:

1. The principle that a person who is assailed elsewhere than in his own dwelling is not justified in taking the life of his assailant so long as there is a safe avenue of escape from the attack.  26 Am J1st Homi § 150. [1] 

1. A term referring to the doctrine, in effect in some jurisdictions, that before a person is entitled to use deadly force in self-defense she must attempt to withdraw from the encounter by giving as much ground as possible. [2]

retreat rule:

1. Criminal law. The doctrine holding that the victim of an assault has a duty to withdraw instead of resorting to deadly force in self-defense, unless

(1) the victim is at home or in his or her place of business (the so-called castle doctrine), or
(2) the assailant is a person whom the victim is trying to arrest.

A minority of American jurisdictions have adopted this rule. — aka rule of retreat; duty to retreat. [3]

     Excerpt from George E. Dix’s “Justifications: Self-defense,” in Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice (Sanford H. Kadish ed. 1983):

     “The rationale for the retreat rule is not difficult to ascertain, at least in part.  It rests upon the view that a human life, even the life of an aggressor, is sufficiently important that it should be preserved when to do so requires only the sacrifice of the much less important interest in standing one’s ground. [4]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6 

[4]: George E. Dix, “Justifications: Self-defense,” in 3 Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice 946, 948-49 (Sanford H. Kadish ed. 1983).


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