2022 Georgia Code
Title 16 - Crimes and Offenses
Chapter 3 - Defenses to Criminal Prosecutions
Article 2 - Justification and Excuse
§ 16-3-21. Use of Force in Defense of Self or Others; Evidence of Belief That Force Was Necessary in Murder or Manslaughter Prosecution

Universal Citation: GA Code § 16-3-21 (2022)
  1. A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force; however, except as provided in Code Section 16-3-23, a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
  2. A person is not justified in using force under the circumstances specified in subsection (a) of this Code section if he:
    1. Initially provokes the use of force against himself with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;
    2. Is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony; or
    3. Was the aggressor or was engaged in a combat by agreement unless he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to such other person his intent to do so and the other, notwithstanding, continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful force.
  3. Any rule, regulation, or policy of any agency of the state or any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, or policy of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state which is in conflict with this Code section shall be null, void, and of no force and effect.
  4. In a prosecution for murder or manslaughter, if a defendant raises as a defense a justification provided by subsection (a) of this Code section, the defendant, in order to establish the defendant’s reasonable belief that the use of force or deadly force was immediately necessary, may be permitted to offer:
    1. Relevant evidence that the defendant had been the victim of acts of family violence or child abuse committed by the deceased, as such acts are described in Code Sections 19-13-1 and 19-15-1, respectively; and
    2. Relevant expert testimony regarding the condition of the mind of the defendant at the time of the offense, including those relevant facts and circumstances relating to the family violence or child abuse that are the bases of the expert’s opinion.

History. Laws 1833, Cobb’s 1851 Digest, p. 785.; Code 1863, § 4230; Code 1868, § 4267; Code 1873, § 4333; Code 1882, § 4333; Penal Code 1895, § 73; Penal Code 1910, § 73; Code 1933, § 26-1014; Code 1933, § 26-902, enacted by Ga. L. 1968, p. 1249, § 1; Ga. L. 1975, p. 1209, § 1; Ga. L. 1993, p. 1716, § 2; Ga. L. 2001, p. 1247, § 1.

Law reviews.

For survey article on evidence, see 34 Mercer L. Rev. 163 (1982).

For survey article on criminal law, see 60 Mercer L. Rev. 85 (2008).

For article with annual survey on criminal law, see 73 Mercer L. Rev. 75 (2021).

For note on admissibility of expert psychological testimony in Georgia, see 4 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 117 (1988).

For note on 1993 amendment of this Code section, see 10 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 131 (1993).

For note, “Smith v. State: The Georgia Supreme Court Mandated Jury Instructions in Battered Person Syndrome Cases,” see 49 Mercer L. Rev. 1141 (1998).

For note, “Open Season on Batterers in Georgia? Georgia Supreme Court Allows Jury Instructions on Battered Person Syndrome in Self-Defense Cases: Smith v. State (1997),” see 15 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 821 (1999).

For note on the 2001 amendment of this Code section, see 18 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 25 (2001).

For comment discussing the unconstitutional use of deadly force against nonviolent fleeing felons, see 18 Ga. L. Rev. 137 (1983).

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