Self-defense can be a very tricky issue to deal with. While the law allows you to defend yourself, your family and your property, you're required to only exercise reasonable measures to secure your safety.
For example, if someone breaks into your house and you throw a heavy object at them causing them injury, that is self-defense. However, if you stab the intruder repeatedly until they die, then it becomes murder.
There is a fine line here and no real right or wrong answers because panic may grip you and situations can be very fluid. Very often, it will be left to the courts to decide if you acted in self-defense or were unnecessarily violent.
* Know the law
This is the most important point. Laws vary from country to country. If you lived in the US, using a firearm on a home intruder will still mean that you get arrested. An investigation will be conducted to determine if your life was in imminent danger and the use of the firearm was warranted.
Breaking into a home doesn't necessarily give the homeowner a right to take the intruder/s life. It's best to use the firearm as a warning to get them to leave rather than engage in a shootout.
In the event that you discharge a firearm at an intruder, and they're injured or dead, you'll need to call 911 and give the briefest of details. Just say that there has been a shooting at your house and give the address.
Do not give more details than necessary. Store the firearm in a safe place and do NOT be holding it when law enforcement arrives, or you might end up getting shot yourself.
The police are NOT your friends. Give them as little details as possible. Your name and address will suffice. Call your lawyer and get good legal advice before speaking to any member of law enforcement.
* Cross your T's and dot your I's
Always make sure that your firearm is registered and legal. Discharging an unregistered firearm is a crime and will adversely affect your defense in the event you're embroiled in a self-defense case.
If you're carrying a pocket knife, it shouldn't be more than 3 inches long. If involved in a fist fight and you brandish a knife and accidentally stab your attacker to death, you could be in serious trouble with the law.
Escalating an attack is never a good idea but if you're being battered and really need an edge, the pocket knife might save your life. In this case, it could be considered self-defense.
This is what makes the whole self-defense issue so tricky. The judge or jury gets to decide if a weapon is offensive or a tool for self-defense.
Your argument for self-defense will be weighed against your intentions at the time. A woman who is about to be raped could stab a man in the neck and get away with self-defense because of the heinous nature of the crime.
However, in Malaysia, a man was charged for stabbing two intruders (one died) who broke into his house. The fine line between murder and violence is really not all that clear.
The general consensus is that if it's property being stolen or the crime is non-violent, killing the criminal can land you in prison for murder or death by negligence. However, if the criminal is inflicting violence against you, such as trying to rape or kill you, then killing your attacker will be self-defense.
If someone breaks into your house and has a gun, shooting them is justified because they could just as easily shoot and kill you in seconds.
What matters is that you be able to show that your use of force was to prevent death or great bodily harm to yourself or your loved ones. If you can do that, charges against you may be dropped and your argument of self-defense will be valid.
Know the law well and do not overreact to situations. Owning a gun at home doesn't give you the right to shoot anyone who breaks in. If the criminal is leaving your house with valuables, let him go.
Never ever chase a criminal outside your house and shoot them. The moment you do that, your argument for self-defense goes out the window and now you've become the assailant.
To conclude, the best way to know when to use deadly force is when your own life or the ones you love are in danger. If you can avoid violence and get away with it, that's the best.
Lost valuables may be recovered, but the time you spend serving a prison sentence for killing a burglar will be gone forever. Even in the midst of all the panic, do your best to assess the situation before reacting. A calm mind is the ultimate weapon when things go sideways. Stay calm.
Disclaimer: We are by no means legally trained and we highly recommend you take correct legal advice from accredited legal professionals on this subject. This article is meant as a guide only.