Self-Defense vs. True Assault

Self-Defense vs. True Assault

All of us carry within us the natural right to defend ourselves against harm. That right transcends whatever rights we enjoy as citizens. Because this right is so vital, it is important to understand the difference between protecting yourself from harm and attempting to harm someone else. Though the right to self-defense is inherent, the line between self-defense and assault is very thin in some cases. To better understand the difference between these two actions, let’s first take a look at how assault is legally defined.

Assault is defined as a willful attempt with a present ability to harm someone, specifically by causing a violent injury. Many people don’t realize that assault could easily be self-defense if the person was trying to prevent the other person from harming them. But, when two people are fighting, it can be hard to distinguish who is acting in self-defense and who committed assault. For example, if someone started punching you and you fought back with reasonable force with the sole intent on protecting yourself, you would be acting in self-defense and not committing assault. Nevertheless, you may still find yourself facing assault charges for your actions. This is where a skilled criminal defense attorney may be needed.

The key to distinguishing self-defense from assault is ascertaining whether the force used against the alleged assailant was reasonable given the circumstances. If you used force that was unreasonable or unnecessary, you may not be able to successfully make a self-defense claim. For your actions to be considered reasonable or necessary, and thus self-defense, you must have had a reasonable belief that you were in danger of being harmed and that you had to use force to prevent that harm from befalling you. Also, the force you used must have been no more than what was reasonable and necessary. So, if you didn’t have reason to believe you were in imminent danger but fought anyway, you cannot claim self-defense. Likewise, if you use more force than was needed to protect yourself from harm, you cannot claim self-defense. 

The California criminal justice system recognizes self-defense as a legal defense to a criminal charge, much like other states recognize stand your ground laws. While California doesn’t have a specific “stand your ground” law, the courts recognize that everyone has the right to defend themselves from harm. These laws typically apply in situations where someone has the choice to “stand” his or her ground and fight back or flee to safety. In California, you are not required to flee before acting in self-defense. This means if someone breaks into your home and makes an attempt to harm you, you have no duty to retreat before you begin to fight back. It is important to understand your rights and duties when it comes to protecting yourself because you have the freedom to fight back without fear of criminal liability. This is a right we should all be able to exercise without much restriction.

The line between assault and self-defense can be very thin in certain circumstances. If you are facing assault charges, you may want to consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney about your case. You cannot be convicted if you were acting in self-defense, but that may be hard to establish in a court of law. You must prove certain elements to successfully raise a self-defense claim. For example, you may need help from an attorney to prove you used no more than reasonable force. This may take a review of medical records, witness statements, or surveillance recordings. How you can claim self-defense will depend, in part, on the crime you are being charged with and the facts and circumstances of the case. For example, the reasonable force requirement of a self-defense claim will vary based on what the attacker was doing to you and what options you had to fight back. Speaking with an attorney should give you an idea of what your options are and how you can raise a strong defense in your case. You have the right to protect yourself from harm, and an attorney can help you defend that right in court.

If you have questions about assault charges, call experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can evaluate your case and help you build a defense. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights.  Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

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