If you are involved in an altercation that results in someone’s injury or death, you can be charged with a violent crime. Depending on the circumstances, you can be charged with assault, murder or manslaughter. And a conviction for any of these can have far-reaching legal and personal consequences.
Being charged with a violent crime is a big deal. Fortunately, one of the defense options you can claim is self-defense. Basically, this is an argument that you used force to protect yourself or someone else from potential injury or death. For your self-defense argument to hold, however, the following elements must be satisfied:
There must have been an imminent threat of injury
For self-defense to work in your favor, you must demonstrate that the threat that prompted you to respond with violence was imminent and immediate. You cannot argue self-defense for a past or future threat. For instance, if you are caught up in a brawl at a bar, you cannot leave the scene, rush home to collect your weapon and return to confront and attack the other party.
Your assessment of the threat must be reasonable
Your assessment of the imminent injury or death in question must be reasonable. This means that any sensible person in your situation would consider the threat significantly dangerous to the point of triggering them to respond with proportionate force.
Your use of force must be proportionate
Speaking of force, you cannot argue self-defense if you used excessive force in response to the threat you faced. For instance, you cannot draw and shoot at someone for slapping or pushing you. This would be a disproportionate force.