The Right of Self-Defense in New Mexico

In New Mexico, a person has a right to defend himself and his home against harm. The long cherished rights of self-defense are clearly established in New Mexico under the State‘s Uniform Jury Instructions.

New Mexico General Jury Instruction on Self-Defense UJI 14-5190 states that “A person who is threatened with an attack need not retreat. In the exercise of his right of self defense, he may stand his ground and defend himself.” New Mexico UJI 14-5180, related to defense of one‘s property, states that a person may use force that he deems reasonable and necessary to defend his or her property.

Of course, the issue will be whether a jury believes the force was reasonable and necessary.

The issue of self-defense will certainly be an issue in the case reported yesterday about the Johns Hopkins University Student who killed an apparent burglar with a samurai sword. The burglar had broken into the student‘s apartment where he lived with several other students. Upon being confronted by the students, the burglar lunged at the students whereupon he was struck down by the samurai sword.

There is no jury instruction in New Mexico dealing with the flair or style in which one defends his or herself. It seems that this cannot be counted for or against you. So the use of a samurai sword should be deemed irrelevant without more. The Uniform Jury Instructions would seem to indicate that the student not be charged.

Unfortunately, there is more to it than that and it is possible that the student will be charged with something, and something quite serious such as homicide or intentional manslaughter, and it will be left to him to assert his defenses.

In New Mexico, the outcome would likely be much the same. Fortunately, the student will be armed with the long standing and rather sacred right to defend oneself and one‘s home from harm.


Collins & Collins, P.C.
Albuquerque Attorneys

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