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Imperfect self-defense is a common law doctrine of criminal procedure recognized by some jurisdictions whereby a defendant may mitigate punishment or sentencing imposed for a crime involving the use of deadly force by claiming, as a partial affirmative defense, the honest but unreasonable belief that the actions were necessary to counter an attack.



It may also be used to make a plea bargain to a lesser included offense.

Examples in common law

For example, in the U.S. state of Californiamarker a defendant can be convicted of manslaughter but not murder when imperfect self-defense applies.

The doctrine of imperfect self-defense recognizes a defendant’s honest but unreasonable belief that deadly force is necessary. An appellate court in Kansasmarker held that "Imperfect self defense is an intentional killing committed with an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances justified deadly force."

Another court, in Marylandmarker, held that:

:State v. Faulkner, 483 A.2d 759,769 (Md. 1984)

Michigan also recognizes imperfect self-defense as a qualified defense that can mitigate second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter. However, the doctrine can only be used where the defendant would have had a right to self-defense but for the fact that the defendant was the initial aggressor.

See also


  1. web site entry on "self defense". Accessed December 21, 2007.
  2. Janet Grumer, Note, Loyola Law Review, Summer 2003, p. 1575, found at Loyola Law Review article. Accessed December 21, 2007.
  3. State v. Jones, 8 P.3d 1282, 1287 (Kan. Ct. App. 2000).
  4. State v. Faulkner, 483 A.2d 759, 769 (Md. 1984)
  5. Michigan Jury Instructions on line. Accessed December 21, 2007.
  6. People v. Deason, 148 Mich. App. 27, 31, 384 N.W.2d 72 (1985)

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