New York is known for many things, including a high rate of violent crime. Like others, you may sometimes fear for your safety when using the transportation system or walking home from work.
You probably want to defend yourself and avoid injuries in a violent situation, but you also want to comply with the law. Knowing what is allowed in the face of imminent danger may help keep you safe without facing criminal charges.
Duty to retreat
Those facing possible physical harm in New York are bound by the duty to retreat principle, unless the attack occurs in your home. “Duty to retreat” means you must attempt to remove yourself from danger before resorting to physical force. For example, if someone tries to assault you on a dark street, you must try to get away if you can do so safely instead of fighting back.
When escape is impossible or too dangerous, you may be justified in defending yourself with the appropriate degree of (generally non-deadly) force.
New York follows the Castle Doctrine. It is similar to the stand your ground model, which allows you to use whatever force necessary to defend yourself, your family and your personal property.
The difference? The Castle Doctrine only applies to self-defense acts occurring at home or on your property. The threat of harm to you or others must also be imminent.
Say an armed robber breaks in, so you get your gun to defend yourself. If the robber starts to attack, you may be justified in shooting them. However, if they turn to flee and you shoot them anyway, you may face felony assault or homicide (if they die) charges. It depends on all the different details of the incident.
Self-defense cases are often hard to prove. Those concerned about possible criminal charges after an act of self-defense will benefit from experienced legal guidance.