The 5 Elements of Self-Defense Law

Attorney Andrew Branca has distilled the laws in all 50 states that concern themselves with self-defense. He says, “There are at most 5 elements to any self-defense case (and often not even that many). That’s true in every one of the 50 states, and all US territories.”

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The 5 Elements of Self-Defense Law are:

  • Innocence
  • Imminence (ability, opportunity, jeopardy)
  • Proportionality
  • Avoidance
  • Reasonableness (subjective and objective)

The 5 Elements of Self-Defense Law chart by attorney Andrew Branca

Source: LawOfSelfDefense.com

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[ Read the SemperVerus article, Important Judicial Decisions Regarding Self-Defense Law ]

According to attorney Phillip Nelsen, the crime of brandishing a firearm is a mens rea crime which requires deliberate wrongful intent consisting of three elements:

  1. You display the gun
  2. in a rude, angry, or threatening manner
  3. and you don’t have a legal justification of self-defense to do so.

Also see the National Conference of State Legislatures article, Self Defense and “Stand Your Ground”


For all the USA federal laws pertaining to firearms, see US Code Chapter 44—Firearm Laws and US Code Chapter 44—Firearm Laws Appendix, as well as USCCA’s Federal Defensive Firearms Laws.

And learn about USA state gun laws at


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