2021 Georgia Code
Title 16 - Crimes and Offenses
Chapter 3 - Defenses to Criminal Prosecutions
Article 2 - Justification and Excuse
§ 16-3-20. Justification

Universal Citation: GA Code § 16-3-20 (2021)

The fact that a person's conduct is justified is a defense to prosecution for any crime based on that conduct. The defense of justification can be claimed:

  1. When the person's conduct is justified under Code Section 16-3-21, 16-3-23, 16-3-24, 16-3-25, or 16-3-26;
  2. When the person's conduct is in reasonable fulfillment of his duties as a government officer or employee;
  3. When the person's conduct is the reasonable discipline of a minor by his parent or a person in loco parentis;
  4. When the person's conduct is reasonable and is performed in the course of making a lawful arrest;
  5. When the person's conduct is justified for any other reason under the laws of this state, including as provided in Code Section 51-1-29; or
  6. In all other instances which stand upon the same footing of reason and justice as those enumerated in this article.

(Code 1933, § 26-901, enacted by Ga. L. 1968, p. 1249, § 1; Ga. L. 1999, p. 81, § 16; Ga. L. 2015, p. 598, § 2-2/HB 72.)

Law reviews.

- For survey article on criminal law, see 60 Mercer L. Rev. 85 (2008). For article on the 2015 amendment of this Code section, see 32 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 63 (2015).



  • General Consideration
  • Application
  • Jury Instruction


Reasonable force permissible in arresting person reasonably believed to be aiding escape.

- If correctional officer reasonably believes persons in aircraft landing inside perimeter of correctional facility are aiding or attempting to aid an escape, then the officer is entitled to make an arrest of those persons. To effectuate this arrest the officer is justified in using reasonable force. 1981 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 81-90.

Extent of force permissible in disabling aircraft landing inside perimeter of correctional facility. See 1981 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 81-90.


Am. Jur. 2d.

- 5 Am. Jur. 2d, Arrest, § 1 et seq. 6 Am. Jur. 2d, Assault and Battery, §§ 29, 105. 39 Am. Jur. 2d, Guardian and Ward, § 63. 40A Am. Jur. 2d, Homicide, § 128 et seq. 59 Am. Jur. 2d, Parent and Child, §§ 9, 25 et seq. 63C Am. Jur. 2d, Public Officers and Employees, § 286 et seq.


- 22 C.J.S., Criminal Law: Substantive Principles, §§ 59, 119. 67A C.J.S., Parent and Child, §§ 12, 155.


- Duty to retreat to wall as affected by illegal character of premises on which homicide occurs, 2 A.L.R. 518.

Acquittal on charge as to one as bar to charge as to the other, where one person is killed or assaulted by acts directed at another, 2 A.L.R. 606.

Right of self-defense as affected by defendant's violation of law only casually related to the encounter, 10 A.L.R. 861.

Voluntary intoxication as defense to homicide, 12 A.L.R. 861; 79 A.L.R. 897.

Criminal law: criminal responsibility of peace officers for killing or wounding one whom they wished to investigate or identify, 18 A.L.R. 1368; 61 A.L.R. 321.

Right of one in loco parentis other than teacher to punish child, 43 A.L.R. 507.

Presumption that public officers have properly performed their duty, as evidence, 141 A.L.R. 1037.

Proof to establish or negative self-defense in civil action for death from intentional act, 17 A.L.R.2d 597.

Pleading self-defense or other justification in civil assault and battery action, 67 A.L.R.2d 405.

Criminal liability for excessive or improper punishment inflicted on child by parent, teacher, or one in loco parentis, 89 A.L.R.2d 396.

Retaking of money lost in gambling as robbery or larceny, 77 A.L.R.3d 1363.

Robbery, attempted robbery, or assault to commit robbery, as affected by intent to collect or secure debt or claim, 88 A.L.R.3d 1309.

"Choice of evils," necessity, duress, or similar defense to state or local criminal charges based on acts of public protest, 3 A.L.R.5th 521.

Automobiles: necessity or emergency as defense in prosecution for driving without operator's license or while license is suspended, 7 A.L.R.5th 73.

Ineffective assistance of counsel: compulsion, duress, necessity, or "hostage syndrome" defense, 8 A.L.R.5th 713.

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