Understanding Virginia's Self-Defense Laws (2023)

Understanding Virginia's Self-Defense Laws (1)

In Virginia, the laws regarding self-defense and the use of deadly (lethal) force are based primarily on the decisions from court cases and are, therefore, common law. In a self-defense situation, Virginia is a “stand-your-ground” state. Here are some of the ways you can defend yourself legally.

  • It is legal to use force to defend yourself against another person in any location, including in your home, in your yard, at work, at a store, or in church.
  • You may use deadly force if:
    • Someone attacks you and…
    • The attack is not the result of your misconduct and…
    • You reasonably fear that you, or another innocent party, are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from the attacker.
  • If an attack is a result of your own misconduct, you must retreat and let the attacker know that you do not want to fight. If the attacker continues anyway, you may then use force to stop them.
  • You may use force against a trespasser if the trespasser refuses to leave after being ordered to go. However, the force involved may not endanger human life or cause great bodily harm. It is also illegal to brandish a deadly weapon to defend your personal property.


What are the 5 principles of self defense? ›

The Five Principles of Self-Defense Laws
  • Principle 1: Innocence. ...
  • Principle 2: Imminence. ...
  • Principle 3: Proportionality. ...
  • Principle 4: Avoidance. ...
  • Principle 5: Reasonableness.

Is va a stand your ground state? ›

Virginia Law

Though Virginia does not have a stand your ground statute, the state courts have held that there is no duty to retreat before using force in public.

What does Va law protect against? ›

Employers can't refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against employees on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions including lactation, age, status as a veteran, or national origin.

What is longest blade you can carry Virginia? ›

It shall be unlawful for any person to point, hold, or brandish a machete or any weapon, with an exposed blade 12 inches or longer, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons and in a manner that reasonably demonstrates that intent.

Can I carry a Taser in Virginia? ›

Virginia allows most people to carry stun guns and use them in self-defense. But there are a few restrictions. Virginians can carry stun guns and Tasers without a permit, unless they've been convicted of certain crimes.

What are the 3 A's of self-defense? ›

A straight forward approach to self-defense is something called The 3 A's. Awareness. Assessment. Action.

What is the #1 rule of self-defense? ›

FIRST: You must have a reasonable belief that your'e being attacked or about to be attacked. SECOND: Unless you are in your home, you must try to retreat (i.e., run away) before you can defend yourself. In other words, you need to try to retreat or run away or get away in any way you can, until you can't.

What is the first rule of self-defense? ›

Four elements are required for self-defense: (1) an unprovoked attack, (2) which threatens imminent injury or death, and (3) an objectively reasonable degree of force, used in response to (4) an objectively reasonable fear of injury or death.

What is the Castle law in Virginia? ›

Some states will include in their Castle Law a “Stand Your Ground” clause. This clause removes the “duty of retreat” even outside of one's home (car, work, where one is allowed to possess a firearm). The State of Virginia doesn't have a “Castle Doctrine” or a “Stand Your Ground” clause.

Can I carry a handgun in my car in VA? ›

As of July 1, 2010, a concealed handgun permit is not necessary when carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel and such handgun is secured in a container or compartment in the vehicle or vessel. The term "secured" as used does not require the compartment to be locked.

Can you pepper spray someone if you feel threatened? ›

However, California is actually a “stand your ground” state. This means that you do not have the legal duty to retreat from your attacker before using force to defend yourself. If there is an immediate threat to your life, you may act in whatever way is required to protect yourself or another person.

What is 2.2 3900 of the Virginia Human Rights Act? ›

§ 2.2-3900. Short title; declaration of policy

Protect citizens of the Commonwealth against unfounded charges of unlawful discrimination.

What is the Virginia Human right Act? ›

The Virginia Human Rights Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability. The Virginia Council on Human Rights investigates complaints filed with it free of charge.

Is Virginia at will state? ›

In Virginia, employment is “at will,” meaning, in short, that employers may legally fire an employee at any time, for any reason, without cause. Likewise, an employee is free to quit at any time. Neither the employer nor the employee is required to provide any notice in advance.

How many rounds can you legally carry in Virginia? ›

There are no magazine capacity limitations, except that a concealed handgun permit (CHP) is required in order to carry magazines with more than 20 rounds in some urban, public areas.

How many rounds are you allowed to carry in Virginia? ›

It shall be unlawful for any person to carry a loaded (a) semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by ...

How many bullets can you open carry in VA? ›

A semi-automatic rifle or pistol that holds more than 20 rounds of ammunition cannot be carried in public. A silencer attached gun cannot be open carry. Shotguns equipped with more than seven additional rounds cannot be open carry. Some facilities and stores may discourage or ban open carry.

Can I carry pepper spray in Virginia? ›

Pepper spray is LEGAL to buy, ship, carry and use in Virginia. Must be a minimum of 18 years old. Cannot have any convicted felonies on record. For self defense purposes only.

What weapons are illegal in Virginia? ›

In Virginia, it's illegal to carry concealed guns or certain other dangerous weapons (including switchblades and bowie knives) unless you have a valid concealed carry permit from the state, or you're in your own home, property, or business.

Are silencers legal in Virginia? ›

Are Silencers Legal in Virginia? You bet they are! Most states allow silencer ownership and use in hunting. In Virginia, you can use your silencer for target shooting, home defense, hunting, or any other legal use.

What are 4 types of defenses? ›

When it comes to criminal cases, there are usually four major criminal defense strategies that criminal attorneys employ: innocence, constitutional violations, self-defense, and insanity.

What are the 4 vulnerable areas that a defensive stance should protect? ›

Focus on the vulnerable areas. Focus on your attacker's vulnerable places: eyes, nose, throat, and groin. Aim all of the moves below at one or several of these areas to have maximum impact.

What to do if someone grabs you from behind? ›

If an attacker grabs you from behind, jerk your head back as hard as you can so that you hit them in the face or neck. This should loosen their grip on you. If they don't quite let go, bend down and reach between your legs to grab the back of their calf or knee, and pull it towards you with as much force as possible.

Can you hit someone if they get in your face? ›

In 2017, we took the question to Micah Schwartzbach, a California criminal defense lawyer and managing editor at Nolo. In short, the answer is "yes" — but the punch has to be made in self-defense.

How much force can you use to defend yourself? ›

Golden Rule #1: You may use no greater force than a reasonable person would deem necessary to defend against the threat proffered. What constitutes a threat varies significantly by state, but it always includes physical harm against you.

Do you have to wait until you are physically attacked in order to defend yourself? ›

Even as the first person to use force, it's possible to act in self-defense. If a reasonable person would think that physical harm is in the immediate offing, the defendant can typically use reasonable force to prevent the attack. People don't have to wait until they've actually been struck to act in self-defense.

Do I have to be attacked first to use force to defend myself? ›

There is no rule in law to say that a person must wait to be struck first before they may defend themselves, (see R v Deana, 2 Cr App R 75).

What is the proper way to defend yourself? ›

  1. 10 Self-Defense Strategies Everyone Needs to Know.
  2. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Too many women enroll in a self-defense class after they've been assaulted. ...

Is Virginia a stop and ID state? ›

Your Rights if Stopped On The Street

It is lawful, despite commonly held beliefs to the contrary, for a law enforcement officer to stop you on the street for no reason. They can ask you questions, ask for ID, and even request a patdown under many circumstances.

Is mutual combat legal in Virginia? ›

The legal defense of self defense does not apply in situations where two persons willingly or voluntarily mutually engage in combat to "gratify their passion."

What is defense of dwelling in Virginia? ›

Under Virginia's castle doctrine, you are allowed to protect your home — your castle —when you have sufficient reason to believe that the person or people entering will try to cause great bodily harm or death upon entering. You are not obligated to retreat.

Is a gun in a glove box concealed in VA? ›

They may conceal weapons in glove boxes, center consoles, gun cases, behind seats, and other areas of the vehicle. If you are transporting a weapon that has been concealed and the firearm is loaded, then you must possess a concealed carry permit.

Can I carry a loaded gun in Virginia without a permit? ›

Open carry is legal in Virginia without a permit for anyone who is at least 18 years old who can legally possess a firearm. However, Localities, such as Alexandria and Newport News may ban the open carry of firearms in public buildings, parks and at special events.

Where can you not carry in VA? ›

Virginia prohibits the carrying of certain kinds of loaded firearms on or about the person, openly or concealed, on any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or in any public park or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public in certain cities.

What is the difference between mace and pepper spray? ›

Remember, Mace® is a brand, pepper spray is what's inside. You might see it in all capital letters as well - MACE® - same thing, it refers to the brand of pepper spray. How to use Pepper Spray - Mace® Brand is as easy as 1,2,3.

What happens if you pepper spray someones mouth? ›

In most cases, the immediate effects of being sprayed in the face with pepper spray include a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat but can also cause difficulty breathing and temporary blindness when the eyes swell shut.

What does Section 15 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights mean? ›

Section 15

That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

What does Section 14 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights mean? ›

Section 14. That the people have a right to uniform government; and, therefore, that no government separate from or independent of the government of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

What is Section 14 of the Human Rights Act? ›

Your right to non-discrimination - article 14

Article 14 protects your right not to be discriminated against in connection with your human rights under the Human Rights Act. This means your human rights mustn't be protected differently because of who you are.

Is Virginia a right to defend state? ›

Virginia law allows the use of self defense where a person: Reasonably believes. He is in imminent danger of an overt act. Threatening unlawful force, serious bodily harm, or death; and.

Can I shoot a trespasser on my property in Virginia? ›

You may use force against a trespasser if the trespasser refuses to leave after being ordered to go. However, the force involved may not endanger human life or cause great bodily harm. It is also illegal to brandish a deadly weapon to defend your personal property.

What are the five 5 basic Human Rights? ›

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

Is a handwritten will legal in Virginia? ›

A will wholly in the testator's handwriting is valid without further requirements, provided that the fact that a will is wholly in the testator's handwriting and signed by the testator is proved by at least two disinterested witnesses.

What makes a will invalid in Virginia? ›

§ 64.2-403.

No will shall be valid unless it is in writing and signed by the testator, or by some other person in the testator's presence and by his direction, in such a manner as to make it manifest that the name is intended as a signature.

What happens if no will in Virginia? ›

If someone dies without a will in Virginia, their estate will go through the intestate succession process. First, they must pay the funeral expenses, taxes and debts. Then, the rest of the estate goes to the spouse, the children, or whoever is next in succession as outlined in the Virginia Code.

Can I carry pepper spray in VA? ›

Pepper spray is LEGAL to buy, ship, carry and use in Virginia. Must be a minimum of 18 years old. Cannot have any convicted felonies on record. For self defense purposes only.

What is the best legal weapons for self defense? ›

10 Best Non-Lethal Self Defense Weapons
  • Taser. ...
  • Pepper Spray. ...
  • Stun Gun. ...
  • Keychain Knuckle Weapon. ...
  • Baton. ...
  • Flashlight. ...
  • Tactical Pen. ...
  • Kubotan.

Is it legal to carry a knife in Virginia? ›

In the Commonwealth of Virginia: It is legal to own any type of knife. It is also legal to open carry any type of knife.

Is a collapsible baton legal in Virginia? ›

There is no law in Virginia making it illegal to openly carry an 'expandable baton'.

Can you conceal carry in Walmart VA? ›

Conceal carry, on the other hand, means to carry a weapon in a public area while the weapon is not visible to others. As stated above, Walmart does not allow open carry of weapons in any of their stores, but they do allow the concealed carry of weapons in accordance with state laws.

What can I use instead of pepper spray? ›

The best alternative is a personal safety alarm, also known as a rape alarm or safety device.

What weapons can I carry to protect myself? ›

Five legal self-defense weapons in California are:
  • pepper spray,
  • stun guns or tasers,
  • certain knives (such as a pocketknife or non-switchblade folding knife),
  • personal alarms, and.
  • certain guns (such as handguns or shotguns).
Apr 25, 2022

What should I carry for protection while walking? ›

Carry a self-defense product, such as pepper spray or a stun gun. And, know how to use it. These non-lethal, inexpensive and small products can allow you to deter an attacker long enough for you to get away, by using just one quick and painful spray to their face.

What size blade can you carry in Virginia? ›

The legal blade length in VA of a pocket knife on school grounds is less than 3 inches. Any longer than that, and the carrier can be charged with a crime.

What is a dirk in Virginia? ›

That definition is consistent with our earlier holding that “[a] 'dirk' or weapon of like kind is any stabbing weapon having two sharp edges and a point, including daggers, short swords and stilettos.” Richards v. Commonwealth, 18 Va.

Can you open carry an AR 15 in Virginia? ›

Last updated September 15, 2021 . Virginia does not generally prohibit the open carrying of firearms in public. However, Virginia does prohibit the carrying of certain kinds of loaded firearms on or about the person, openly or concealed, in public places in certain cities.

Can you open carry without a holster in Virginia? ›

Open Carry is legal in Virginia in most places with or without a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP). Concealed Carry requires, with a few exceptions, a CHP. (See §18.2-308, Sections B, C, & D for the exceptions.) However, some restrictions may apply.
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