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Can I Be Charged with Assault for Self-Defense?

Assault is a serious criminal allegation, and one that poses considerable penalties upon conviction – including fines, terms of imprisonment, and a criminal record. In many cases, assault – including first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree assault – is a felony offense. Other forms of assault – including domestic assault– can also subject convicted individuals to imprisonment and serious long-term consequences, such as a loss of civil rights.

Because assault is considered a violent crime involving the intentional infliction or attempt to inflict harm on another, or any act intended to cause fear of harm, law enforcement officers are zealous in their efforts to make arrests. In some cases, officers who did not personally witness an assault taking place may prioritize arresting suspects and allowing the court system to deal with specific facts and circumstances of whether an offense was committed. As a result, individuals can still be charged with assault simply for defending themselves.

Although self-defense is a viable defense to assault allegations, zealousness to make arrests and difficulties raised by situations involving fights, limited witnesses, or conflicting testimony can and often do result in suspects being arrested – even if they were only defending themselves. While criminal allegations are cause for concern, anyone charged with assault who was defending themselves should remember that our criminal justice system operates on the presumption of innocence – meaning you are innocent until proven guilty, and have the right to defend yourself against the government’s claims.

Although self-defense is a justification for causing harm to another or committing acts to cause fear or harm, defendants must prove several elements in order to establish warranted self-defense, including:

  • They faced threats of unlawful force from another
  • They perceived fear that they faced harm (with reasonable basis, such as the assailant using physical force against them, having a weapon, or previous assault convictions, among others)
  • They caused no harm or provocation to be threatened
  • There was no reasonable way to retreat or escape the situation

Of course, there are numerous circumstances that must be addressed based on the individual facts of a case. Just because someone acts in self-defense does not mean that they can’t face charges, especially when it comes to the amount of force used to defend oneself or the nature of the threat itself. For example, the force used in self-defense must be reasonable when compared to the threat posed – one cannot continually beat a perceived threating assailant, especially after neutralizing the threat. Individuals who use force against others who were physically no match for them in the first place – such as in the case of elderly, disabled, or minor individuals – may also face charges. Similar standards may also apply when defendants raise arguments regarding the defense of others, or the defense of property.

Ultimately, self-defense is a viable defense to assault allegations, and one that can circumvent a criminal conviction. However, dismissed charges are never a guarantee, which is why anyone facing allegations of this nature should be intent on working with proven and experienced criminal defense lawyers who can help them effectively establish the elements needed to prove self-defense was justified and reasonable.

At Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A., our Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers have decades of combined experience protecting the rights of individuals facing criminal charges, including charges involving assault and battery. We leverage this insight when representing individuals who had every right to use physical force when defending themselves or others, and use our understanding of the law to clearly and convincingly establish this with prosecutors, judges, and juries. If you would like more information about our defense services for assault charges, do not hesitate to contact us 24/7 for a FREE and confidential consultation as soon as you can. Following criminal allegations, time is always of the essence.


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