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What Are the Rules on Self-Defense in Nebraska?

Greg Nelson Attorney at Law Feb. 6, 2024

If you've been searching for comprehensive and reliable information about Nebraska's self-defense laws, you've landed in the right place. As an experienced defense attorney, I am committed to providing you with an in-depth understanding of the legal landscape surrounding self-defense in Nebraska. By understanding these rules, you'll be better prepared should you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to protect yourself or others. 

The Basics of Self-Defense Laws in Nebraska 

In Nebraska, the law allows you to use force for self-protection when you genuinely believe that such force is immediately necessary to protect yourself against unlawful force. This belief must be reasonable and based on the circumstances of the current situation. The key elements here are "immediately necessary" and "present occasion. " 

For instance, if a person threatened you last week, but today they're merely glaring at you without posing any immediate threat, the use of force would not be justifiable. Also, the amount of force used must be proportionate to the perceived threat. If someone pushes you, responding with excessive force, like striking them with a baseball bat, would likely not be justified. 

When Can Deadly Force Be Used? 

Deadly force refers to force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. Nebraska law does allow the use of deadly force under certain circumstances. If you believe that you or someone else is at risk of death, serious bodily harm, kidnapping, or sexual assault, you may use deadly force.  

It's important to remember, though, that these situations require a higher level of analysis and justification than other cases. In other words, the use of deadly force should only be a last resort when all other options, including retreat, have been exhausted.  

Does Nebraska Have a 'Stand Your Ground' Law? 

A common question I get asked is whether Nebraska is a “Stand My Ground” state. The answer is not straightforward. In Nebraska, there is a “duty to retreat,” which means that if you can avoid a confrontation by retreating safely, you should do so. However, this duty doesn't apply when you're in your own home or place of work. 

Arguing Self-Defense in a Criminal Trial

I've represented clients who have been wrongfully charged with serious violent crimes, and I can tell you that arguing self-defense in a criminal trial is not easy because the evidence is often challenged by the prosecution as subjective, as acting in self-defense requires you to make a judgment call in the heat of the moment. However, with a thorough understanding of Nebraska's self-defense laws and strong legal representation, it is possible to successfully argue self-defense and have charges dropped or reduced. 

When arguing self-defense in court, your defense attorney must understand the nuances of Nebraska law and how they apply to your situation: 

  • Establishing Reasonable Belief. First and foremost, you need to establish that you had a reasonable and good faith belief that using force was immediately necessary (State v. Faust). This means showing that you believed you were under threat and that any reasonable person in your shoes would have felt the same way. We'll aim to present evidence that paints a clear picture of the immediate danger you perceived. 

  • Proportionality of Force. Next, you must show that the force you used was proportionate and reasonable given the circumstances. If someone just pushed you, responding by hitting them repeatedly with a baseball bat might not be seen as proportional. However, if you were threatened with a weapon, using significant force in response could be justified. 

  • Duty to Retreat. In Nebraska, there's a duty to retreat unless you're at your home or place of work. We'll need to demonstrate that you couldn't have avoided the confrontation safely by retreating, or that you had no duty to retreat due to your location. 

  • Use of Deadly Force. If deadly force was used, then you need to establish that you genuinely believed such force was necessary to protect yourself from death or serious bodily harm. The court will consider whether you could have avoided using such force by retreating safely. 

  • Addressing Provocation. If you're accused of provoking the encounter, your attorney should argue that you didn't provoke the incident with the intent of causing harm. We'll aim to prove that you acted in self-defense during the encounter, not as an aggressor. 

  • Presenting Evidence. This could include eyewitness accounts, physical evidence, or even expert testimony. The court is required to consider a self-defense instruction if there's any evidence supporting it. 

Remember, every case is unique, and the strategy we use will depend on your specific circumstances. If you're facing charges where a self-defense argument could be relevant, please reach out to me. As your attorney, I'll work hard to ensure your rights are protected and that your side of the story is heard. 

Legal Help Is Here if You Need It

Understanding and applying Nebraska's self-defense laws can be complicated. If you find yourself in a situation where you've had to use force or deadly force, in self-defense, I strongly recommend seeking experienced legal counsel right away.  

As an attorney based in Omaha, Nebraska, I'm proud to serve clients across the state. Contact Greg Nelson Attorney at Law today if you have any questions or need strong representation. My firm is committed to delivering honest, no-nonsense representation at fair prices. Start building your best defense today.