Next >>>
Copyright © 2014 by Level 1 Firearms Safety and Training  ·  Boise, ID · Meridian, ID · Nampa, ID · Caldwell, ID  ·  E-Mail: info@level1firearms.com
To schedule your next class or Home Safety Inspection

Use of Deadly Force in Idaho


This portion of our web site is to provide a general overview of some of the most important gun laws that exist in our country and in the State of Idaho.



If you reside in Idaho or intend to apply for the Idaho Enhanced Carry and Concealed Weapons License, Level 1 Firearms Safety and Training has a class dedicated to the legalities of gun ownership which meets the state of Idaho requirements. Please contact us if you are interested in attending this class.

If you own a firearm there's always the chance it could be used for self-defense; intended or not. If you have incorporated the use of a firearm in your personal defense strategy, the chances increase dramatically because, in theory, your firearm is within easy reach or on your person at all times. If you are forced to pull your weapon, it must be done so under one condition only: "The loss of limb or life"; there are no exceptions. In this section we'll discuss some of the standards that elevate the threat of danger to the threat of life and how they are commonly interpreted. As always, we suggest you contact a local attorney in your state for a legal opinion and further explanation on these subjects.

Idaho Castle Doctrine

The premise of the Castle Doctrine is a legal doctrine which designates a person's home, workplace, or other legally recognized location as an area which affords certain protections and immunities to use force to defend themselves against an intruder and to be free from legal responsibility and/or prosecution of the consequences of such use, deadly or otherwise.
However, the imminent threat to life or limb standard still applies! If a person burglarizing your home is leaving through the front door with a TV in his hand and is moving away from you, the use of deadly force and a claim of justifiable homicide could be difficult to prove.
The Idaho Castle Doctrine is not specifically called "Idaho Castle Doctrine" per se, but the parameters of the Castle Doctrine defense are present under Title 18, Chapter 14 of the Idaho Code. Specifically, section 18-4009 (2) (3): Italics are ours to stress the importance of the imminent threat to life.
1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; 
2. When committed in defense of habitation, property or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein; or,
3. When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant or engaged in mortal combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed

No Duty to Retreat

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Castle Doctrine, or in this case the Idaho statue, there is no duty to retreat from the intruder (provided the intruder is in the home, workplace, or other legally defined area) before defending oneself. Keep in mind, the absence of the duty to retreat is strictly and solely limited to your home, workplace, or other legally designated area for the context of this discussion. Idaho state laws should not be confused with "Stand your Ground Laws" which are applied to public locations.

Idaho Stand Your Ground Law

The premise of the "Stand Your Ground Law" is essentially an extension of the "Castle Doctrine" but intended to be applied in a public location. Essentially it gives individuals the right to defend themselves while on any public property without the duty to retreat first from a dangerous situation. Stand your ground laws can be quite controversial because the requirement to retreat is removed which may encourage or even promote the use of deadly force where it could have been avoided by simply walking away.
As with all situations, the use of deadly force is available only if the individual fears for the loss of limb or life is imminent and the use of deadly force is immediately required. If an immediate threat is not present and deadly force is used, the Stand Your Ground Law couldn't possibly be used as a defense.
Idaho does not have a specific law or set of codified statues which explicitly address or identify a "Stand Your Ground Law".
What Idaho does have, is case law. Case law are cases where, even in the absence of a precise, written law, a series of existing laws apply the same results. In Idaho, the basic grounds for justifiable homicide are applied. These exist under Title 18, Chapter 14 of the Idaho Code. Specifically, section 18-4009 (1):
18-4009. Justifiable homicide by any person. Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in either of the following cases:
1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; 

Idaho: No Duty to Retreat

Idaho does not have a specific law which requires an individual to retreat in the face of impending or threatening danger. The theory behind the duty to retreat is the victim or person being threatened, should first attempt to remove themselves from the threat, either by retreating to another location, simply running away, or seeking shelter in a crowded public place. This is where the controversy begins: If someone can retreat and avoid a confrontation, why would they choose to stay and fight? Wouldn't a reasonable person want to avoid a dangerous encounter at all cost? Wouldn't common sense tell you to simply "walk away"?

On the other hand, the use of deadly force is based entirely on the fact there were no "outs"--nowhere to run too or, more importantly, no option to run. Under these circumstances, imminent danger is present and immediate action is required, so a duty to retreat law is a useless law under such a life-threatening situation.

This is further supported by the Idaho Criminal Jury Instructions:


In the exercise of the right of [self-defense] [defense of another], one need not retreat.  One may stand one's ground and defend
[oneself] [the other person] by the use of all force and means which would appear to be necessary to a reasonable person in a
similar situation and with similar knowledge [; and a person may pursue the attacker until [the person] [the other person] has been
secured from danger if that course likewise appears reasonably necessary].  This law applies even though the person being
[attacked] [defended] might more easily have gained safety by flight or by withdrawing from the scene.

Additional Idaho Self-Defense Concepts

The "Reasonable Man" Standard

The "reasonable man" standard is always applied during a shooting investigation, by an attorney, a judge, and a jury. The standard is unavoidable because it's the same standard you use when watching a trial on the television: Would I have behaved in that way?

The theory behind the "reasonable man" standard is questioning whether the average person would have done what you did under the same set of circumstances. For example, an intruder in your home who is armed with a knife 20 feet away from you continues towards you after repeated warnings you will shoot to protect yourself. This is a situation that we believe most reasonable people would shoot to protect themselves. On the other hand, shooting an unarmed person 50 feet away who is shouting profanities or playing load music is hardly a reason to fire your weapon claiming it was done in self-defense.

Use of "Reasonable Force"

Reasonable force is the use of equal force against equal force. In other words, you can't use a gun to defend yourself simply because someone hit you in your arm. A 6' 3" 220 lbs professional athlete would have a difficult time explaining the use of deadly force against a 5' 2" 85 year 100 lbs grandmother. On the other hand, if the grandmother had a steel rod or knife, the circumstances have changed. In essence, absent the presence or the ability of the attacker to cause great bodily harm or death, the use of a firearm is generally prohibited and considered excessive force.

Ability of the Attacker

An attacker is only considered a threat to life or limb if they are actually capable of carrying out the threat. The unarmed grandmother threatening to "kill" the professional athlete is not a threat that can be taken seriously taken by the athlete using the "reasonable man" standard.

Immediate Threat Must Exist

You cannot use deadly force when an immediate, imminent threat is not present. For example, if someone say's "Someday I'm going to kill you!" and has no means of doing so at that time, use of deadly force would not be justified.

You Must be the Victim of the Attack

You cannot start or incite another person into a fight and then use deadly force. To be able to use deadly force, you must be the victim of an attack--totally innocent of escalating the situation to such a level. An example might be you offended someone and they start yelling at you. You should respond in a calm manner, apologize (even if you are right), and try to get yourself away from that person as quickly as possible. If the person starts to escalate the situation, such as poking you in the chest or pushing you around, the situation is escalating because of them; not you.

Brandishing a Weapon

Brandishing laws exist in many states. Brandishing a weapon is the act of waving your firearm in a threatening, aggressive, or unsafe manner. Brandishing occurs when you present your firearm as a means of a threat or for the purpose of scaring or bullying someone into doing something or believing THEIR life in now in danger. For example, a trespasser who refuses to leave your yard, presents no physical danger, is a problem for the police to handle. If you pull your firearm out of your holster and waive it about or hold it in a manner that is unsafe and excessive for the situation, you are brandishing a weapon.

If you are following the rules for protecting yourself from an immediate attack or life-threatening situation, and are forced to present your firearm as a last line of defense, you are not brandishing your weapon. In fact, at that point, you have every intention of using it if the threat does not go away. If the attacker suddenly runs away, the threat is over and the firearm should be immediately holstered.

Protection of Others

Many states have laws which allow citizens to use deadly force when a commission of a crime is occurring against another fellow citizen. This can get extremely tricky. Suppose you come across a scene where one person has a knife and they're about to stab the other person. There are so many things that can go wrong in these situations. For example, the person doing the stabbing, is he the attacker or the victim who took the knife from the attacker? Is he responding in self-defense or is he the bad guy ready to commit murder? If it's the victim defending them self and you yell to stop, what happens if the attacker gets control of the knife and kills the victim?

Other situations may be more obvious. A gunman who is randomly shooting into a crowd of people, or a woman who is clearly being raped, or a kidnapping is occurring--these situations are best left for the police to handle, however, you may not have the time to call the police. Essentially, although it is not you who is being threatened with great bodily harm or death, you have the right to come to the assistance of another person who is under this threat, and, to use deadly force if the victim is clearly going to lose their life.

Remember, all this relies on the correct set of circumstances. If you are approaching a gas station and you see an armed robbery in process, you should not do anything to escalate the situation, instead, you should call the police and become a good witness. On the other hand, if the robber starts shooting customers for no apparent reason, it becomes complicated. Do you stand by and watch while you wait for the police to arrive? Do you try to intervene and remove the threat yourself? What happens if the police arrive and think you're the threat?

Be very careful in these situations and whenever possible, call the police and be a good witness for them.

The Absence of Threat

hen a threat no longer exists, such as if they ran off, surrendered, or are no longer able to cause immediate harm or loss of life, you must stop the use of lethal force. That does not mean you have to holster your firearm! It means you must be very careful of what you do next.

If the person fled, do not chase after them

. Be a good witness, remember what they are wearing, tattoos, birth marks, scars, and if you were lucky enough, their license plate.

If the person surrendered

, have them drop to the ground, face down, with their arms and legs spread as wide as possible apart. Stand to their side at a safe distance opposite their face so they cannot see you and instruct them to remain quiet while the police arrive. Do not attempt to tie them up, use handcuffs, or tie downs to restrain them--keep a safe but manageable distance. If possible, try to have a witness call the police and describe who you are, what you are wearing, and that you have the suspect on the ground and are holding them at gunpoint. It's not an ideal situation, but at least the police have somewhat of an explanation of whose who before they arrive. Be sure to follow the police instructions carefully when they arrive. Move slowly, deliberately, and keep your hands in plain view at all times. The officers will have one goal in mind when they arrive--which will be to disarm you immediately.

If the attacker has been shot or killed

, you will want to be safe and follow the same routine as if the suspect had surrendered. In other words, keep your firearm on the suspect, notify the police if possible, and follow instructions once they arrive.

If the shooting occurred in your home

, and you are confident the threat no longer exists, gather your family together, go out to the front yard, and wait for the police to arrive. When the police arrive, be sure everyone have their hands in plain view as the officers will want to know they are safe to approach. Do not have your firearm on your person! Either take it with you to the front yard, place it on the ground and move away from it, or place it in the home safe before you exit the house. If you are holding an injured suspect at gunpoint, have your family exit the home as before and tell the arriving officers the suspect is wounded and being held at gunpoint. As always, follow the officer's instructions once they have arrived and remember their goal will be to disarm you immediately.
RSS Feed
Idaho Enhanced Permit Classes