Justifiable Homicide

Tennessee has set forth a number of circumstances in which a person is justified in using defensive force, including deadly defensive force. There is a strict requirement that the level of force used by a defender be proportional to the threat they, or the third person, experienced. In other words, one cannot retaliate for a punch with a gunshot. The enumerated, justified situations are self-defense, defense of another, defense of property, defense of a third person’s property, and private citizens as well as law enforcement officers in making an arrest authorized by law. 

Even if the use of force is justified under criminal law, this does not prohibit civil liability, nor does it prevent liability to a person recklessly injured or killed in the use of force.

Rather than excusable homicide, Tennessee recognizes “voluntary manslaughter” when one commits “the intentional or knowing killing of another in a state of passion produced by adequate provocation sufficient to lead a reasonable person to act in an irrational manner.” While this is a lesser charge than murder, it does not relieve defendant of all liability like the justified situations above. “Reckless homicide,” is a reckless killing of another; it also imposes lesser punishment than murder without relieving all of defendant’s liability.