Verbal altercations can quickly escalate, turning physical in nature. When that happens, someone can end up hurt and the police may be called. Depending on what’s said at that time, you may find yourself being accused of criminal wrongdoing. Being charged with a violent crime can not only be surprising, but it can also be threatening to the life that you’ve worked so hard to create.
Fortunately, even if the evidence is overwhelming that you physically struck someone, you may have effective criminal defense strategies available to you. If effectively utilized, you may be able to beat the prosecution, avoid harsh penalties, and reclaim your life. One of your best options and the one that we want to look at this week is self-defense.
A look at California’s self-defense law
Self-defense is allowed under California law. However, there are certain restrictions on its use. For example, the statute requires you to demonstrate that you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of physical harm and that your use of force was necessary to remedy the danger. Your use of force must also be reasonably necessary to stop the force that was threatened against you.
That may seem like a simple standard to apply, but the truth of the matter is that it leaves a certain degree of subjectivity in the hands of the judge or jury who is deciding your case. What is considered a reasonable use of force to one person may seem excessive to another, which is why you need to diligently work to paint a picture of the circumstances surrounding your use of force. Doing this will also help show other aspects of your defense, including that the threat posed a present threat at the time of your use of force.
Are there limitations to a claim of self-defense?
Yes. For example, your use of physical force in self-defense may become more problematic if you were the initial aggressor. You’re not foreclosed from arguing self-defense in these circumstances, but in order to effectively argue self-defense in this situation you’ll also have to show that you tried to stop the fighting and indicated your intent to the other party. You’ll also have to show that your use of force was in response to the other individual’s use of deadly force.
Therefore, a self-defense argument doesn’t give you the ability to fight back as you see fit. You have to be able to demonstrate that you acted reasonably under the circumstances and, depending on the circumstances, that you took steps to mitigate the physical altercation.
Evidence to support your claim
If you’re going to argue self-defense, then you’ll need evidence to support your position. This is mostly going to consist of your own testimony, but it might also include other witness testimony as well as pictures of your own injuries, police reports, and other documents that demonstrate that the other individual has a history of being violent. Make sure that you’re diligent in gathering any and all evidence that may support your position.
An attorney may be able to help you build the defense that you need
There’s a lot that goes into a self-defense argument. And making a mistake during any step in the defense process may leave you susceptible to conviction. To avoid that outcome, it may be best for you to work closely with a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in building self-defense cases. Hopefully then you can avoid the harsh penalties being threatened against you, thereby protecting the life that you’ve built.