Self-defense in Virginia is an affirmative defense, the absence
of which is not an element of murder. In making this plea a
defendant implicitly admits the killing was intentional and
assumes the burden of introducing evidence of justification or
excuse that raises a reasonable doubt in the minds of the
The law of self-defense is the law of necessity, and the
necessity relied upon must not arise out of defendant's own
misconduct. Accordingly, a defendant must reasonably fear
death or serious bodily harm to himself at the hands of his
victim. It is not essential to the right of self-defense that
the danger should in fact exist. If it reasonably appears to
a defendant that the danger exists, he has the right to defend
against it to the same extent, and under the same rules, as
would obtain in case the danger is real. A defendant may
always act upon reasonable appearance of danger, and whether
the danger is reasonably apparent is always to be determined
from the viewpoint of the defendant at the time he acted.
McGhee v. Commonwealth,
219 Va. 560, 562, 248 S.E.2d 808, (1978).
Use of Force Against Trespasser
The common law in the state of Virginia has long recognized the right of a
landowner to order a trespasser to leave, and if the trespasser refuses
to go, to employ proper force to expel him, provided no breach of the
peace is committed in the outset...
Absent extreme circumstances,
however, such force may not endanger human life or cause great bodily
Pike v. Commonwealth,
24 Va. App. 373, 375-376, 482 S.E.2d 839,
Justifiable And Excusable Homicide
Justifiable homicide in self-defense occurs where a person,
without any fault on his part in provoking or bringing on the
difficulty, kills another under reasonable apprehension of
death or great bodily harm to himself.
Excusable homicide in self-defense occurs where the accused,
although in some fault in the first instance in provoking or
bringing on the difficulty, when attacked retreats as far as
possible, announces his desire for peace, and kills his
adversary from a reasonably apparent necessity to preserve his
own life or save himself from great bodily harm.
Bailey v. Commonwealth,
200 Va. 92, 96, 104 S.E.2d 28, (1958).
Virginia Law On Deadly Force To Protect Property
The threat to use deadly force by brandishing a deadly weapon
has long been considered an assault.
The owner of land has no right to assault a mere trespasser
with a deadly weapon. A deadly
weapon may not be brandished solely in defense of personal
Commonwealth v. Alexander,
260 Va. 238, 241, 242, 531 S.E.2d 567,