How far can you go to defend yourself?


Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - David Dycus

PADUCAH, Ky. - Common sense may come into question if you're ever in a situation to defend yourself against someone you see as an attacker.

These questions about self-defense laws surfaced in George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Riots continue in parts of Los Angeles. Protesters assaulted a television photographer Monday night.

Los Angeles Police plan to be out in much greater force to prevent this kind of violence.

The police chief said officers are trying to be accommodating to free expression, but will not tolerate illegal activity.

People across the Local six region are talking about self defense and protecting what's yours.

In Kentucky it's called the Castle Doctrine. It states if you are somewhere you have a right to be, like your home, also known as your castle, and you are attacked you have the right to stand your ground. The doctrine states you can meet force with force, even deadly force.

But an attorney warns, even with the Castle Doctrine, you should never start the fight.

The George Zimmerman verdict incites lots of emotions, but also questions about self defense.

Attorney Mark Bryant has prosecuted and defended murder cases and says Kentucky's self defense laws are clear.

"You're on your own property for example and somebody comes to your home, you don't have to run away," Bryant said.

You don't have to be at home. State law says, "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force."

But what happens when 'self defense' isn't justified?

McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden said his homicide investigators carefully consider the charges filed against someone accused of killing someone else.

"We always include the Commonwealth Attorney's office and the County Attorney's office, the prosecutor's," Hayden said.

Bryant said even though Kentucky's laws allow for self-defense, shooting someone should always be your very last resort.

"If you're out looking for trouble, you're going to get it, I think your best bet is to turn around and walk away because that's good advice.  Even though it may not be legal advice, that's just good common sense advice," Bryant said.

In Illinois, the self-defense laws are a little different.  You can only use force to defend your home if the intruder enters in a violent manner.  If you're somewhere else, you can use deadly force if you feel your life is in danger.

Tennessee and Missouri laws are similar to Kentucky's in that you're not required to retreat if you feel your life is in danger.

In public, you're only allowed to use deadly force if you believe your life is in danger.

Bryant said in Kentucky, you also have a right to shoot someone who is burning or attempting to burn your house or building.