When is the Criminal Defense of Self Defense Justified?
Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) October 19, 2015 – A crime may be committed in self-defense. But what is the definition of self-defense?
The right of self-defense is the right of an individual to use reasonable physical force in order to defend their own life or the lives of others. In certain situations, this includes the use of deadly force. When someone uses the defense of self-defense in court, it is often used for serious crimes when the person has inflicted harm upon another (assault and battery, homicide), but their actions were justified due to the need to protect themselves when facing threat of physical harm from another individual.
Self-defense is justifiable in court when the accused did not attack the person that harmed them first, did not employ more force than was reasonably necessary to avoid being harmed or injured any further and they believed that using force was necessary to avert or stop the danger.
In the U.S. every state permits a defendant to plead self-defense if accused of a violent crime, but each jurisdiction has different rules in this regard. While self-defense is a valid legal defense, it must be proven that it was a last resort action when all other routes or avenues of escape had vanished.
“Is self-defense ever justified? Yes, in some instances it is,” said a Lakeland, Florida, criminal defense attorney, Thomas Grajek. “An example would be that the accused was physically attacked or witnessed someone else being physically attacked. The emphasis is on ‘physical’ attack, because offensive language is not enough.”
According to the law, the plea of self-defense may not require that the accused be attacked. A criminal defense attorney must show that the defendant had a reasonable fear that harm was imminent and acted to protect themselves. “That being said, the defendant must also prove they tried to retreat, or tried to resolve the situation without using deadly force,” Grajek added.
Self-defense is not justified if excessive force is used in response to an attack, if the defendant started a fight or if the target crime or assault was over before the accused used physical force to attack their attacker. In some states, those under attack must escape the situation they are in before they can defend themselves.
For individuals involved in what they feel may be a life threatening situation, it is difficult to determine the difference between justified and not justified self-defense. “This is another reason to immediately connect with a competent criminal defense attorney to find out what laws are applicable in the state in which you reside. Never act as your own defense in court. There are too many things that may go wrong,” Grajek said.