Self-Defense: Your Right To Defend Yourself

Few people are naturally prone to violent acts, and that's what makes it so difficult for those who act only in self-defense when threatened. When you must take actions you never anticipated to protect yourself, you may still face criminal charges. Read on to find out how the defense theory of self-defense can be proven when things take a turn for the worse.

As a Criminal Defense

The law makes provisions for those accused of crimes, and there are several common defense techniques. For example, you might say that you were elsewhere at the time of the crime (an alibi) or that you were coerced into performing a criminal act for fear of reprisals. One very common defense is that of self-defense, and if you can prove it, it may result in your charges being dropped or you being found innocent in court. To prove self-defense, your defense lawyer has to prove several things were true.

You Had No Choice

This element of self-defense means that you were so convinced that you were in imminent danger that you acted to preserve yourself or others. The word "imminent" here is key. You cannot justify using violence against another unless you believe you are in danger now. If you have been threatened with violence and that act might occur later, you cannot lash out and hurt the person making the threat and use the self-defense theory. For example, if you are told that you will be stabbed if you return to a home, that is not a legitimate use of self-defense. If you are approached by someone with a knife, you can justifiably use self-defense – even if the person with the knife never touches you. 

Force Level Was Appropriate

The law also looks at the exact nature of the response to the threat or attack to evaluate how appropriate the response was. If you use deadly force to prevent what would not have been a deadly threat, you might not be successful in using self-defense as a criminal defense. The key is to use just enough force to prevent being hurt and nothing more.

You Were Not the Aggressor

You cannot start a physical altercation with someone and then claim self-defense when they are hurt as a result. If you display a handgun because you were trying to scare someone, for example, you cannot expect the other person to know your intentions. They could hurt you and claim self-defense themselves.

Each state has its own ways of interpreting self-defense laws, and some provide more protection to alleged victims than others. Intent and your state of mind play a huge role in how successful a self-defense theory is accepted by the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury. Speak to a violent crime defense attorney to find out more.