Self Defense Laws in Oregon: Can You Stand Your Ground?

Today, let’s talk about self-defense and personal protection. I want to help dispel many of the myths people believe about violence, the use of force as a means of staying safe, and the consequences and laws surrounding self defense and personal protection in Oregon.

I hope that by reading today’s post you’ll understand that there are very real consequences to using force to protect yourself and that you’re much better off avoiding violence if at all possible.

The Truth About Self-Defense

While Oregon’s laws allow you to defend yourself in a variety of situations, the truth is that you should always avoid force (even in self-defense) if at all possible. In the majority of cases where force is used, there are severe consequences.

Using force often backfires, resulting in more physical injuries to yourself and others than if you simply avoided or ran away from the situation. Additionally, there may be potential civil or criminal consequences to your actions that you aren’t considering in the heat of the moment.

Finally, even if your use of force is justified, it can ruin your life. You will have to live with the physical and emotional consequences of your actions and many people simply aren’t prepared for that experience.

Understanding Violence in Our Society

Unfortunately, the society we live in seems to promote and legitimize violence through movies, television, and even what we see on the evening news. This has resulted in more and more people carrying weapons (including guns) they intend to use to defend themselves.

The end result is that people are afraid for their lives and that they believe violence is their best choice for protection. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

If anything, our society is much safer than any other time in recent memory. As you can see from the chart below, many forms of violent crimes are down significantly over the past 25 years: 

To put it another way, more people are injured in car accidents every year than are victims of the crimes shown above. But most people have a significantly greater fear of violent crime than car accidents, mostly due to the way society emphasizes and promotes violence.

Make Yourself Safe

My advice to you is to take simple steps to protect yourself rather than planning on using force (which comes with many negative consequences) to protect yourself.

  • Increase Your Awareness - When in public, engage with your surroundings and simply look around.

  • Trust Your Gut - If you feel uncomfortable or have a bad feeling, get to an area where you feel safe. Call for help if necessary.

  • Secure Your Property - Don’t leave valuables in plain sight in your home or car. Use a home security system and a car alarm.

Oregon’s Laws on Self-Defense & Personal Protection

The state of Oregon does have laws to cover a variety of situations where self-defense and the use of force are justified. However, just because these laws exist doesn’t mean that they are endorsing the use of force. Instead, they should be seen as a guide to be used by the courts when terrible things happen.

What is the Reasonable Person Standard?

Many laws regarding ambiguous situations use what is known as a “reasonable person standard.” Many of Oregon’s laws about personal protection and self defense use a variation of this phrase.

But what does it mean?

The reasonable person standard is a hypothetical imagining of an average, reasonable person and how he or she would perceive and behave in a given situation. It’s often phrased as a question, “Would a reasonable person...”

The law uses this test to set a standard of behavior(s) that can be used when interpreting the law. To put it another way, when taking an action, would a reasonable person take that same action? How would a reasonable person react?

The Use of Deadly Force: Avoid If At All Possible

In the state of Oregon, outside of a few situations, the use of deadly force against a person is prohibited. These exceptions include:

  • When another person is in the process of committing a felony that involves imminent physical force or violence

  • When a burglary is being committed in a dwelling

  • When a person is about to use unlawful deadly force against a person

When it comes to the use of deadly force, you should avoid it at all costs.

If there is any opportunity to run from danger, that should be your first option. You’re much more likely to survive and avoid additional physical injuries and long-term and potentially life-ruining emotional damages than if you choose to stay and fight.

Protecting Your Property

Let me say this first:

Your property is not worth your health and safety or the health and safety of your loved ones. If at all possible, leave the area, contact the authorities, and avoid physical confrontations with criminals committing property crimes.

Using physical force to protect your property can end in tragedy. It’s simply not worth it.

Do You Have a Duty to Retreat?

You may have heard phrases like “duty to retreat”, “stand your ground”, or “castle doctrine” in the news during discussions of self defense and personal protection. Simply put, these phrases refer to laws that refer to your duty to avoid violence or your right to protect your home/dwelling.

In State of Oregon v. Sandoval (2007), the Oregon State Supreme Court affirmed that deadly force is allowable when: “A person reasonably believes another person is using or about to use deadly force against him or her.”

Again, my opinion is that your best option is to retreat if at all possible. You’re much more likely to protect your own health and avoid the numerous consequences of using force.

My Final Words on Violence & Self Defense

I think violence is wrong and should be avoided in the vast majority of situations. If you are able to run away or leave the area that should be your first option and it is your best option.

You shouldn’t live in fear of being the victim of violence (no matter what you see in the media) and you shouldn’t believe that a gun or other weapon is the best way to protect yourself. It simply isn’t true.

Photo Credit: Mitchell Roth