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Self-defense as a legal defense

In cases where assault, battery or homicide occurred, self-defense is a common strategy to implement in court. A U.S. Park Police officer recently claimed he acted in self-defense in 2017 when he fatally shot a motorist, even though said motorist did not have a weapon on his person. 

While acting in self-defense is a common strategy to use in court, it does not always work. There have to be certain factors present for the defense to be successful. Anyone currently planning on going to court on assault and battery charges may want to use self-defense as a retort, but that individual and his or her legal team will need to look at the definition of self-defense to ensure it fits. 

The factors to determine self-defense

A legal team must consider four factors to determine if an act of battery counts as self-defense. These factors include:

  • A threat of unlawful harm or face was imminent
  • There was a true, honest perceived fear of harm, as well as a reasonable basis for such a perceived fear
  • No provocation existed on his or her part
  • There was no other option for escaping or retreating from the scenario

Therefore, if you threw the first punch, then it would be nearly impossible to prove you acted in self-defense later. 

Other extenuating circumstances exist

It is possible to bring up self-defense in court if certain extenuating circumstances exist. For example, if a pickpocket stole your wallet and you chased the thief down and tackled him, then you can use self-defense because you needed to protect your property. Additionally, you may act in self-defense to protect others. An imminent threat against your children may be enough for you to act out first before harm initially comes to your kids. When self-defense comes up in conjunction with eyewitness testimony confirming you were in danger, it can make for a good defense in court. 

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Ronald E. Smith, P.C.

criminal defense & Social security disability law

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