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Can you defend against assault charges by claiming self-defense?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2022 | Violent Offenses |

When you engage in an act of interpersonal violence, you will likely find yourself facing criminal charges. California prosecutors will charge individuals with assault for harming another person, even if they do not cause permanent bodily injury.

The more serious the consequences for the other person involved, the more significant the charges and penalties you could face. Those accused of assaults may have multiple strategies available for defending themselves, including proving that they weren’t involved in the fight by providing an alibi.

Sometimes, you don’t need to deny your involvement but rather to prove that your actions were legal under California state law. Can you claim that you acted in self-defense in response to upcoming assault charges?

Yes, California recognizes self-defense claims

You don’t have to claim you weren’t involved to plead not guilty to pending assault charges. You can mount an affirmative defense alleging that your act of violence was not criminal. Such a defense strategy can potentially work in three different circumstances.

You have the right to act to protect yourself from an immediate threat to your physical safety. You also have the right to protect your personal property from those who would damage or steal it. This includes protecting yourself with physical force when someone unlawfully enters your home.

Finally, you can use physical force to stop a threat or crime affecting another person. This other individual does not need to have any direct relationship to you. You can claim self-defense when you act to protect your spouse or a total stranger outside of a grocery store.

Are there limits on self-defense claims?

Typically, to successfully use claims of self-defense to avoid an assault conviction, you will need to so that you had reason to fear for your safety and that another reasonable person would have also felt threatened in the same situation. You generally cannot claim self-defense if you instigated the situation. The amount of force used and the type of threat you perceived can influence how the courts respond to a claim of self-defense.

Before you insist on a specific defense strategy, it may be worth reviewing the evidence against you to determine if any other approach may have a higher chance of success. Understanding viable defense strategies can help those accused of violent crimes in California.