What are the use of force laws in Self Defense? Can I physically remove a trespasser from my home or property if he won’t leave?
As a self defense instructor I get asked questions like this a lot because there is a lot of confusion around this subject and misinformation is rampant. Laws vary state to state but since we live in Fargo, ND I’m going to focus on this area and Moorhead, MN since it’s part of our metro area.
Since this information is hard to find, and hard to understand when you do, I thought it would be helpful to just have it all in one place. To be clear, I’m NOT covering deadly force here. For now, I’m just talking about Non-deadly force options. I’m citing the actual legal codes for ND and MN in my summery plus the explanation from multiple police officers I interviewed to get their perspective. The links to the Legal sites are below if you want to check it out further..
So let’s do this…
CAN I USE PHYSICALLY FORCE TO PROTECT OR REMOVE SOMEONE FROM MY PROPERTY?
In ND – Yes, ND code 12.05-01-06 is meticulously clear about this. ND states specifically that you can use force to prevent a trespass or remove a person once he’s trespassed. They use the terms Premises and property (12.1-05-12.4) so this means dwellings, land, cars, business, etc… not just Home. It’s also clear you can use force to prevent someone from damaging your property or stealing your stuff. The only requirement is you must first announce to the person to desist from doing so… unless if doing so would be useless or dangerous to you.
It also states that if you are a bystander and wish to help someone out with the above problem you are covered under the law. Just make damn sure the person you are assisting is the actual owner of the property! The police I spoke to seemed pretty aware of the laws and supportive of the defenders.
In MN – MN is much more vague. Their code 609.06.4 simply states force is authorized to resist a trespass or any interference to any real (real estate?) or personal property. They do also state that you can assist in property defense as well similar to ND.
CAN I USED FORCE FOR SELF DEFENSE?
In ND – Yes, the use of appropriate force is legal for self defense in ND. Appropriate force is simply defined in 12.1-05-07 as no more force than is necessary and appropriate for the circumstance. There are 2 specific instances listed in the code were force is NOT authorized for self defense.
1 – To resist arrest from the police (Obviously)
2 – You cannot intentionally provoke someone into wanting to cause bodily harm to you then claim self defense.
Mutual Combat – One really cool thing I learned while researching this is ND has a mutual Combat law! Yes you read that right! According to police I talked to about this, Basically it means that if 2 people walk out to the street and voluntarily engage in ‘a fight’ they can’t claim self defense, but they’re not going to get assault charges from each other either. Unfortunately they said police responding will result in at least a round of disturbing the peace fines for everyone tho.
How Self Defense makes its way back into the mutual combat discussion tho is… if you willingly step outside to throw down with someone, and after realizing you’re not as tough as you thought you were, you quit and tell the guy enough, you give up… if that person continues to beat on you or menace you then you are back to having self defense protection as stated above. 12.1-05-03-2.b
Assistants – Like the trespass law, you can legally assist anyone who has the legal right to use force as long as you have not forfeited your right by one of the methods listed. 12.1-05-04
In MN – I’m not gonna lie, Self Defense in MN is a shit show. They don’t have any laws on the books for non deadly force self defense… literally nothing, it doesn’t even have a section.
What I could gather is all self defense cases are decided using case law, not any actual law. Which means they’ll decide your justification based on how they decided other self defense cases of the past.
From my research, it appears anyway, that there are 4 basic criteria you need to prove self defense in MN… they are:
1 – You can not have provoked the aggression in any way or have been the aggressor yourself.
2 – You have to be able to demonstrate the belief you were in fear of great bodily harm or death
3 – … and that belief is reasonably justified.
4 – You have to demonstrate you didn’t have any reasonable means to flee the scene
Though not specifically stated as such, I believe this criteria is more meant for deadly force. BUT since there is literally nothing out there for Non-deadly I’d imagine it’s a good guideline. That’s it, my advice is try really hard not to get attacked in Minnesota!
For more information on how we view Self Defense check out our article: What is Self Defense?
North Dakota Century Code 12.1-05 – Justification – Excuses – Affirmative Defenses for Use of Force
Minnesota Statute 609.06 – Authorized Use of Force
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