Amid all of the controversy surrounding the Trayvon Martin shooting, some Oregon residents might be wondering what their own state's laws are concerning self-defense. If you feel threatened, do you have the right to use deadly force against another person? Although the recent shooting in Florida has deeply divided some communities with opposing opinions on the topic, the law is all that matters in a criminal defense case.
Oregon's self-defense law isn't all that different from the one that's protected George Zimmerman from prosecution. He's the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Martin in a gated community one month ago. Claiming he shot the teen in self-defense, he hasn't been charged in the shooting because his state's law gives residents the right to use deadly force without first retreating from a threatening situation.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that its residents weren't required to retreat before using deadly force. In other words, Zimmerman would not have faced charges in this state, either. But 25 years before that ruling, lower courts in Oregon interpreted the law to mean that people had a duty to retreat before using deadly force.
What seems to be at the heart of the national argument over whether Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin is not necessarily the law, but whether he genuinely felt threatened by the teen. That's an issue that would play out in Oregon, as well. It may not be enough to simply say you were threatened. People who use deadly force against another person must not be aggressors, but legitimately concerned for their safety.
Source: KGW.com, "Oregon, Florida self-defense laws similar," Tim Gordon, March 27, 2012