Backstory: According to Local News Reports

Earlier this week a motorist, identified as Kenneth Lily, collided with a school bus as it merged onto the freeway in Minneapolis.  Lily pulled off to the shoulder and the school bus pulled in behind his vehicle.  Lily then exits his vehicle and confronts the bus driver, purportedly to enter into the school bus.  The bus driver denies him entry because there was a student on board.  Lily then moves to the front of the bus and fires five-shots from his 9MM handgun at the bus’s front windshield.  The bus driver was struck in the left arm and head.  Lily the calls 9-1-1 and is arrested.  Lily told law enforcement that he feared for his life at the time that he fired the shots at the bus driver.  In other words, he is claiming that the shooting was justified as they were fired in self defense.

Self Defense in Minnesota

Self Defense is a defense recognized in Minnesota that excuses what would otherwise be considered criminal conduct if the act was done so as to protect oneself from harm or death.  As it would apply to this situation the law states:

No crime is committed when a person takes the life of another person, even intentionally, if the defendant’s action was taken in resisting or preventing an offense the defendant reasonably believed exposed the defendant (or another) to death or great bodily harm.

Minnesota law does not recognize an “imperfect self-defense.”  Which, in some states, would allow for a criminal charge to be reduced even when a self-defense claim cannot be fully proven.  Minnesota’s self defense law is examined under what an objectively-reasonable-person would believe under the circumstances, not the subjective beliefs of the person claiming the defense.

Duty to Retreat vs. Defense of Dwelling (home)

Minnesota law recognizes the “defense of castle” doctrine.  Meaning, a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves in their home.  The person claiming self-defense must only have an objectively reasonable belief that force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in their home.  A felony could mean theft, robbery or an assault on anyone in the home, among other things.

However, if a person is claiming self-defense outside of their home, Minnesota recognizes that the person first has a duty to retreat before the defense can be claimed.  This does not necessarily mean that you have to “make a run for it” prior to being able to defend yourself.  Rather, you have an obligation to look an alternative means to avoid the peril and to at least attempt that option if it exists.  In some circumstances, there may not be a reasonable means of avoidance, in which case, the self-defense claim will still be recognized.

Claiming Self-Defense in Court

In order for deadly force to be justified four conditions must be met:

  1. Deadly force must have been used in the belief that it was necessary to avert death or great bodily harm;
  2. The judgment of the defendant as to the gravity of the peril to which (he) (she) (or another) was exposed must have been reasonable under the circumstances.  As described above, this is based on the beliefs of an objectively-reasonable person under the same circumstances;
  3. The defendant’s election to defend must have been such as a reasonable person would have made in light of the danger perceived and the existence of any alternative way of avoiding the peril.  In other words, the defendant must examine and consider the ability to avoid the peril (duty to retreat); AND
  4. Fourth, there was no reasonable possibility of retreat to avoid the danger.

All four conditions must be met, without exception, for the court to recognize the self-defense claim.  If there is any reason to justify the claim then it should be recognized.  The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.  No burden rests upon the defendant to prove self-defense; the State must convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s acts were not justifiable.

The importance of getting experienced legal counsel

Minnesota’s self defense laws are complicated and required a careful examination of your case.  If you are charged with a crime and believe you have a valid self-defense claim contact an attorney immediately.  Criminal charges can come with extremely serious, life-long consequences.  A conviction on your record can jeopardize your ability to get a job, secure a loan, get housing or even lose recreational privileges such as hunting.  It is crucial that you do everything you can to keep your record clean—we will provide the help you need.

Contact us today for your free consultation

If you face serious criminal charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.  We will arrange an in-person meeting at our office, or will meet you wherever is most convenient for you.

The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Sieben & Cotter, PLLC, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.