Iowa’s citizens enjoy a clear, succinct “stand your ground” law in the state’s statutes.
flag of Iowa
Citizens are allowed to employ force, including deadly force, against any unlawful use of force against themselves or someone else so long as they are in any place they have a legal right to be and are not engaged in the commission of any crime.
Iowa’s statutes do employ the “reasonable person” metric for judging the actions of the defender which is, as always, subject to the sometimes capricious interpretation of judges or juries but aside from this minor quibble, there is much to like about Iowa’s self-defense laws.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Iowa’s stand your ground law and be sure to check out the exact text of the state statutes included at the very end.
What You Need to Know
Citizens in Iowa may use force to protect themselves or someone else against the unlawful use of force, or the imminent commission of a forcible felony.A person using force and self-defense lawfully has no obligation to retreat from any place where they may lawfully be so long as they are not otherwise engaged in any illegal activity.Iowa statutes do contain a “reasonable person” mandate meaning that a person may use only the level of force that is necessary to avoid injury or loss to one’s own person or someone else’s according to what any “reasonable” person would be expected to under the same circumstances.
There is a lot to like about Iowa’s statutes concerning self-defense. Aside from the definition section, the statutes are clear, succinct, and easy to understand, and the right to use force in self-defense, including deadly force, is plainly spelled out.
One key element of Iowa’s statutes that savvy defenders should understand is the reasonable force mandate, with reasonable force defined as the level of force, and no more, that a reasonable person under the same circumstances would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss of one’s life or the life of another.
Furthermore, citizens in Iowa have absolutely no obligation to retreat from a threat so long as they are in any place they have a lawful right to be and are not otherwise engaged in any illegal activity.
This is the very basis of the “stand your ground” concept in law across the nation as it prevents a defender, someone who is already on the back foot in a bad situation, from being burdened with the legal obligation to attempt retreat when doing so might expose them to even more harm.
As always, a person cannot illegally occupy any place where they have no right to be when the defensive force is used or otherwise engaged in any illegal activity.
Similarly, the level of defensive force used must always be proportional to the threat perceived by the defender according to the reasonable person mandate above.
Certain presumptions are made in the defender’s favor in the case of a home invasion or other unlawful activities taking place in another dwelling or a place of business, but there is no carte blanche to employ force, especially lethal force, if a legitimate threat is not present.
Iowa is a state with excellent laws concerning self-defense, and the statutes governing such include an especially good stand your ground law.
Citizens may meet the use of unlawful force with force in any place they have a lawful right to be without any obligation to retreat so long as they are not otherwise engaged in the commission or imminent commission of any crime.
Relevant Iowa Use of Force Statutes
702.11 Forcible felony.
1. A “forcible felony” is any felonious child endangerment, assault, murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking, arson in the first degree, or burglary in the first degree.
2. Notwithstanding subsection 1, the following offenses are not forcible felonies:
a. Willful injury in violation of section 708.4, subsection 2.
b. Sexual abuse in the third degree committed between spouses.
c. Sexual abuse in violation of section 709.4, subsection 1, paragraph “b”, subparagraph (3), subparagraph division (d).
d. Sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist, or school employee in violation of section 709.15.
e. Child endangerment subject to penalty under section 726.6, subsection 6.
f. Assault in violation of section 708.2, subsection 4.
g. Domestic abuse assault in violation of section 708.2A, subsection 5.
h. Removal of an officer’s communication or control device in violation of section 708.12, subsection 3, paragraph “f”.
702.18 Serious injury.
1. “Serious injury” means any of the following:
a. Disabling mental illness.
b. Bodily injury which does any of the following:
(1) Creates a substantial risk of death.
(2) Causes serious permanent disfigurement.
(3) Causes protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
c. Any injury to a child that requires surgical repair and necessitates the administration of general anesthesia.
2. “Serious injury” includes but is not limited to skull fractures, rib fractures, and metaphyseal fractures of the long bones of children under the age of four years.
702.12 Occupied structure.
An “occupied structure” is any building, structure, appurtenances to buildings and structures, land, water or air vehicle, or similar place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or occupied by persons for the purpose of carrying on business or other activity therein, or for the storage or safekeeping of anything of value. Such a structure is an “occupied structure” whether or not a person is actually present. However, for purposes of chapter 713, a box, chest, safe, changer, or other object or device which is adapted or used for the deposit or storage of anything of value but which is too small or not designed to allow a person to physically enter or occupy it is not an “occupied structure”.
A “dwelling” is any building or structure, permanent or temporary, or any land, water or air vehicle, adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, and actually in use by some person or persons as permanent or temporary sleeping quarters, whether such person is present or not.
702.7 Dangerous weapon.
A “dangerous weapon” is any instrument or device designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal, and which is capable of inflicting death upon a human being when used in the manner for which it was designed, except a bow and arrow when possessed and used for hunting or any other lawful purpose. Additionally, any instrument or device of any sort whatsoever which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other, and which, when so used, is capable of inflicting death upon a human being, is a dangerous weapon. Dangerous weapons include but are not limited to any offensive weapon, pistol, revolver, or other firearm, dagger, razor, stiletto, switchblade knife, knife having a blade exceeding five inches in length, or any portable device or weapon directing an electric current, impulse, wave, or beam that produces a high-voltage pulse designed to immobilize a person.
704.1 Reasonable force.
1. “Reasonable force” means that force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat.
2. A person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.
3. A person who is not engaged in illegal activity has no duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force as specified in this chapter.
704.2 Deadly force.
1. The term “deadly force” means any of the following:
a. Force used for the purpose of causing serious injury.
b. Force which the actor knows or reasonably should know will create a strong probability that serious injury will result.
c. The discharge of a firearm, other than a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions and discharged by a peace officer, corrections officer, or corrections official in the line of duty, in the direction of some person with the knowledge of the person’s presence there, even though no intent to inflict serious physical injury can be shown.
d. The discharge of a firearm, other than a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions and discharged by a peace officer, corrections officer, or corrections official in the line of duty, at a vehicle in which a person is known to be.
2. “Deadly force” does not include a threat to cause serious injury or death, by the production, display, or brandishing of a deadly weapon, as long as the actions of the person are limited to creating an expectation that the person may use deadly force to defend oneself, another, or as otherwise authorized by law.
3. As used in this section, “less lethal munitions” means projectiles which are designed to stun, temporarily incapacitate, or cause temporary discomfort to a person without penetrating the person’s body.
704.2A Justifiable use of deadly force.
1. For purposes of this chapter, a person is presumed to reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another in either of the following circumstances:
a. The person against whom force is used, at the time the force is used, is doing any of the following:
(1) Unlawfully entering by force or stealth the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, or has unlawfully entered by force or stealth and remains within the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.
(2) Unlawfully removing or is attempting to unlawfully remove another person against the other person’s will from the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.
b. The person using force knows or has reason to believe that any of the conditions set forth in paragraph “a” are occurring.
2. The presumption set forth in subsection 1 does not apply if, at the time force is used, any of the following circumstances are present:
a. The person using defensive force is engaged in a criminal offense, is attempting to escape from the scene of a criminal offense that the person has committed, or is using the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal offense.
b. The person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of the person against whom force is used.
c. The person against whom force is used is a peace officer who has entered or is attempting to enter a dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle in the lawful performance of the peace officer’s official duties.
d. The person against whom the force is used has the right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, and a protective or no-contact order is not in effect against the person against whom the force is used.
704.2B Use of deadly force — duties — evidence.
1. If a person uses deadly force, the person shall notify or cause another to notify a law enforcement agency about the person’s use of deadly force within a reasonable time period after the person’s use of the deadly force, if the person or another person is capable of providing such notification.
2. The person using deadly force shall not intentionally destroy, alter, conceal, or disguise physical evidence relating to the person’s use of deadly force, and the person shall not intentionally intimidate witnesses into refusing to cooperate with any investigation relating to the use of such deadly force or induce another person to alter testimony about the use of such deadly force.
704.3 Defense of self or another.
A person is justified in the use of reasonable force when the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend oneself or another from any actual or imminent use of unlawful force.
704.4 Defense of property.
A person is justified in the use of reasonable force to prevent or terminate criminal interference with the person’s possession or other right in property. Nothing in this section authorizes the use of any spring gun or trap which is left unattended and unsupervised and which is placed for the purpose of preventing or terminating criminal interference with the possession of or other right in property.
704.5 Aiding another in the defense of property.
A person is justified in the use of reasonable force to aid another in the lawful defense of the other person’s rights in property or in any public property.
704.6 When defense not available.
The defense of justification is not available to the following:
1. One who is participating in a forcible felony, or riot, or a duel.
2. One who initially provokes the use of force against oneself, with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict injury on the assailant.
3. One who initially provokes the use of force against oneself by one’s unlawful acts, unless:
a. Such force is grossly disproportionate to the provocation, and is so great that the person reasonably believes that the person is in imminent danger of death or serious injury or
b. The person withdraws from physical contact with the other and indicates clearly to the other that the person desires to terminate the conflict but the other continues or resumes the use of force.