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What is justifiable homicide in Louisiana?

Homicide is one of the most serious crimes a person can be accused of in Louisiana. When faced with such allegations, one's head may be swirling with questions about how they can defend themselves and what their future will bring. When facing the very real possibility of a lengthy prison stay, it is essential for a person who is charged with homicide to establish a solid defense.

One statutory defense against homicide charges is that the act was justified. Per Louisiana law, there are several circumstances in which a homicide may be justifiable. The first reason is one that some readers may already be aware of: self-defense. If a person is under the reasonable belief that his or her life is in imminent danger and that the only way the person can save him or herself is by killing the person who is threatening him or her, then the killing may be justified.

In addition, sometimes a person is forced to kill another person in order to stop a forcible or violent felony that endangers the life of another, so long as there is the reasonable belief that such a felony is about to take place and that the killing is absolutely necessary to prevent it from happening. In this situation, there must be the reasonable belief that a person's life is seriously endangered if he or she attempted to stop the felonious crime without killing the perpetrator.

Furthermore, a homicide may be justified if a person has the reasonable belief that another may intend to use unlawful force against another in the person's home or business, or in the event that unlawful force is used in a motor vehicle in the commission of certain crimes, including robbery or burglary.

Finally, homicide may be justifiable if it was committed by a person inside a home or business and the person reasonably believes the use of deadly force is essential to stop the perpetrator from unlawfully entering the home or business.

These are important defenses against charges of homicide. However, other defenses may also be made on the accused's behalf in homicide cases. No one should be unfairly painted as a murderer. Facing a murder charge can be understandably intimidating, but defendants in Louisiana do not have to face this serious felony charge alone.

Source: Louisiana State Legislature, "Justifiable Homicide," accessed June 3, 2015

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