Missouri residents have the right to protect themselves and their property from harm, but the state has strict laws governing using weapons for self-defense.
Knowing when and how you can use a weapon to defend yourself can mean the difference between staying safe and facing criminal charges.
In this article, we will discuss the laws surrounding weapons charges and self-defense in Missouri and provide helpful tips for protecting yourself and your loved ones. If you need more help, reach out to a St. Louis weapons crimes defense attorney at Rose Legal Services.
Self-Defense and the Right to Bear Arms
The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, but this does not mean people are free to use weapons recklessly or with impunity.
Missouri law allows individuals to use reasonable force to protect themselves or others from harm. In fact, Missouri has a “stand your ground” law, which means that you do not have to retreat from an attacker before using force in self-defense.
However, the use of deadly force is legal only under specific circumstances. Under the Castle Doctrine, Missouri residents have the right to defend their home, vehicle, or other property using deadly force if they believe that someone is trying to unlawfully enter their residence or vehicle. A person can also use deadly force upon another person if he or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, herself, her unborn child, or another person against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony.
When Using Force is Illegal
While Missouri’s Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground Law afford you some rights to protect yourself, there are limitations.
Under Missouri law, you may not use physical force against another person if:
- You were the initial aggressor in an altercation. You cannot legally use physical force to defend yourself unless the other person sufficiently escalates the situation.
- The other party has communicated that they no longer mean you harm and are withdrawing from the situation.
- You are using force against a police officer who is justified in using force to arrest you.
- The person you are protecting would not be justified in defending themselves with force.
- You were committing, attempting to commit, or escaping after committing a forcible felony.
It’s important to note that the use of physical force in self-defense must be reasonable, and you must stop using physical force to defend yourself as soon as it is reasonable to do so.
When is Deadly Force Legal?
In Missouri, using deadly force is legal if you believe that you or someone else is in imminent danger of death or serious physical harm.
You are permitted to use deadly force if:
- You believe it is necessary to protect yourself, your family, or someone else against serious injury, any forcible felony, or death.
- The force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or unlawfully attempts to enter a residence or vehicle which you are occupying.
- The force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or unlawfully attempts to enter private property you own, lease, or have been given authority to occupy.
As long as one or more of these situations are present, you have the right to defend yourself accordingly. The prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn’t believe it was necessary to defend yourself against unlawful force.
Weapons Laws in Missouri & Criminal Charges
While Missouri has relatively liberal gun laws, there are strict regulations on who can own and carry firearms. Additionally, the state has strict penalties for those who use weapons illegally. Understanding these laws and charges is crucial if you want to stay on the right side of the law.
In Missouri, you must be at least 19 years old (or 18 years old and a member of the Armed Forces or honorably discharged from the Armed Forces) to conceal carry or open carry in the state. Missouri does not require a permit, but there are restrictions on where you can carry. Additionally, convicted felons are barred from owning or carrying guns. Failure to adhere to Missouri gun ownership laws could result in an unlawful possession charge.
Other common weapons crimes in Missouri include:
- Unlawful Use of Weapons (Exhibiting)
- Unlawful Use of Weapons (Possession of a Firearm and Controlled Substance)
- Possession of an Illegal Weapon
- Armed Criminal Action
These charges carry severe penalties and can result in long prison sentences and hefty fines. By working with an experienced attorney, you can protect your rights and build a strong defense.
Tips for Protecting Yourself
Protecting yourself and your loved ones is important, but it’s also important to do so within the boundaries of the law.
Here are eight tips for staying safe and avoiding weapons charges in Missouri:
- Understand the laws surrounding self-defense and weapons charges in Missouri.
- Only use deadly force as a last resort.
- Be aware of your surroundings and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
- If you own a firearm, make sure it is stored safely and securely.
- Take a firearms safety course to learn how to use your weapon properly.
- Consider carrying non-lethal self-defense weapons, such as pepper spray or a stun gun.
- Consult a criminal defense lawyer at Rose Legal Services if you’re facing weapons charges in Missouri.
If you’re facing weapons charges or have questions about the laws surrounding self-defense in Missouri, it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney who can help protect your rights and build a strong defense.
At Rose Legal Services, we focus on criminal defense and have a proven track record of success defending clients facing weapons charges. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you protect your rights and freedom.