We expect our students to be law abiding, productive citizens. We strive to educate them on how to protect themselves physically, and provide some guidance and basic knowledge of the laws that pertain to self-defense. Below is a comprehensive summary of the laws in the State of Washington assembled and prepared by Louise Wynn. Louise is not an attorney and all verbiage provided on this page is for information purposes only.
Please seek the assistance of a qualified attorney or law officer with any questions legal questions.
WASHINGTON STATE LAWS ON SELF-DEFENSE
Self-defense, use of force, and use and carrying of weapons:
It is lawful to use force in Washington State in the following instances (RCW 9A.16.020):
The use, attempt, or offer to use force upon or toward the person of another is not unlawful in the following cases:
(1) Whenever necessarily used by a public officer in the performance of a legal duty, or a person assisting the officer and acting under the officer's direction;
(2) Whenever necessarily used by a person arresting one who has committed a felony and delivering him or her to a public officer competent to receive him or her into custody;
(3) Whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary;
(4) Whenever reasonably used by a person to detain someone who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or on real property lawfully in the possession of such person, so long as such detention is reasonable in duration and manner to investigate the reason for the detained person's presence on the premises, and so long as the premises in question did not reasonably appear to be intended to be open to members of the public;
(5) Whenever used by a carrier of passengers or the carrier's authorized agent or servant, or other person assisting them at their request in expelling from a carriage, railway car, vessel, or other vehicle, a passenger who refuses to obey a lawful and reasonable regulation prescribed for the conduct of passengers, if such vehicle has first been stopped and the force used is not more than is necessary to expel the offender with reasonable regard to the offender's personal safety;
(6) Whenever used by any person to prevent a mentally ill, mentally incompetent, or mentally disabled person from committing an act dangerous to any person, or in enforcing necessary restraint for the protection or restoration to health of the person, during such period only as is necessary to obtain legal authority for the restraint or custody of the person.
It is a misdemeanor in Washington State to carry a slung shot*, sand club, or metal knuckles, or spring blade knife, or any knife the blade of which is automatically released by a spring mechanism or other mechanical device, or any knife having a blade which opens, or falls, or is ejected into position by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward, or centrifugal thrust or movement; and to carry a concealed dagger, dirk, pistol, or other dangerous weapon; and to use a noise suppressor on any firearm (9A.20 RCW). (*defined as a weight on a flexible rope, sock, or chain)
It is a misdemeanor in Washington State to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons. Exceptions are if you are in your home or place of business, performing your job if your job is to preserve public safety (i.e. a police officer) and if you are protecting yourself or another person against unlawful force or the threat of unlawful force by a third person (RCW 9.41.270).
Even homicide is justifiable when committed in the lawful defense of the slayer, his/her spouse, wife, parent, child, sibling, or anyone in his/her company, when there is “reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or do some great personal injury to” the people being defended, or “imminent danger of such design being accomplished”; also, in the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer in his “place of abode” (RCW 9A.16.050).
Force used in self-defense should not put the defender in legal jeopardy, and state law requires that the person be reimbursed for court and other legal costs (RCW 9A.16.110).
However, if the person using force, even in self-defense or in the defense of another person from the actions of a third person, is engaged in committing a crime, different rules apply.
If a case goes to trial, the judge asks, or requests that the jury ask, the following questions in determining whether the use of force in self-defense or defense of another person was justified (Answer yes or no):
1. Was the finding of not guilty based upon self-defense? . . . . .
2. If your answer to question 1 is no, do not answer the remaining question.
3. If your answer to question 1 is yes, was the defendant:
a. Protecting himself or herself? . . . . .
b. Protecting his or her family? . . . . .
c. Protecting his or her property? . . . . .
d. Coming to the aid of another who was in imminent danger of a heinous crime? . . . .
e. Coming to the aid of another who was the victim of a heinous crime? . . . . .
f. Engaged in criminal conduct substantially related to the events giving rise to the crime with which the defendant is charged? . . . . .
Information on laws of all 50 states is available at
The source of much of what you see provided here.
NOTE from the Florida State Division of Licensing Web site, with information which is true in all states (http://licgweb.doacs.state.fl.us/weapons/self_defense.html):
“Verbal threats are not enough to justify the use of deadly force. There must be an overt act by the person which indicates that he immediately intends to carry out the threat. The person threatened must reasonably believe that he will be killed or suffer serious bodily harm if he does not immediately take the life of his adversary.”