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Can You Use Self-Defense Against an Assault Charge?

Assault Charge: Being charged with assault can change your life for the worse. Everyone around you will look at you differently, even those who are closest to you. Not only that, but it can affect you even if you didn’t actually commit assault against anyone. 

Although this charge is a serious one, it can be justified as long as you can prove that using physical force was necessary for that particular situation. How do you do this, though?

One of the most common defenses against assault charges is self-defense. For something to be considered self-defense, you must be in danger, and using force is the only way to escape. But can you really use self-defense when dealing with an assault charge? How can you prove it?

Here is everything you need to know. 

Table of Contents

What Are Assault Charges?

Assault refers to the act or threat of physically harming others by intentionally committing violence against them. It’s something that can cause others to feel afraid of physical harm or an attack. 

That being said, while it’s more often associated with a violent act that has already taken place, it can also be considered assault when one only places others in fear of physical harm. So, the victim doesn’t have to be bodily injured for the authorities to take action against the perpetrator. 

What Is the Punishment for Assault Charges?

The punishment for an assault charge will depend on the severity of the assault, but also the state you live in. Laws may be different in each state – so, make sure to research yours before assuming your punishment. 

Overall, though, a simple assault may result in a maximum fine of $500, as well as up to 60 days in jail. It is considered a second-degree misdemeanor.

Now, if you commit Aggravated assault instead, this is more severe as it is a third-degree felony. Being charged with it can give you a maximum of 5 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $5,000. 

How Do You Prove Self-Defense?

In order to prove self-defense when you are dealing with an assault charge, you will require certain elements. For instance, you’ll have to prove that:

  • You were not the one who incited the argument
  • You thought you were in danger
  • Your only option to keep yourself safe was using force
  • What you did was proportionate to the anticipated threat 

Of course, if you want to prove any of the points above, you need to show some evidence. Everything you provide will be checked to determine if what you’ve done is something that any individual would’ve done if they found themselves in the same situation. 

Force or Deadly Force

Something that will matter a lot when you are trying to prove self-defense is whether you used normal force or deadly force. Both of these situations can only happen in certain circumstances. 

  • Non-Deadly Force

Using normal force means using force against someone else when this is the only option one has when facing danger. If this is the only way to defend yourself against the imminent and unlawful use of force, then using force is reasonable. In this scenario, the victim doesn’t have to retreat without threatening or using physical force against the culprit. 

One situation when using non-deadly force is allowed is when the victim had a reasonable fear of physical harm or imminent death. This could’ve happened when someone broke into their vehicle or house. After all, when someone enters your vehicle or house without being invited, the reasonable assumption is that this intruder will use force or violence to do something that is against the law. 

  • Deadly Force

Regardless of what some people may think, using deadly force is permitted as long as it is necessary to defend yourself or others when facing imminent danger. You can use deadly force as long as this is necessary to prevent physical injury or death, or to prevent someone from committing a crime against them. 

For instance, if someone entered your home or vehicle and tried to remove you unlawfully, then you can use deadly force as you have a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm or death. You may also use deadly force if you have to resist attempted murder or other felonies. 

As such, deadly force can be used when you are the victim in the following attempts: 

  • Domestic violence
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault / aggravated sexual assault
  • Assault / aggravated assault
  • Murder

But there are also some scenarios when the imminent physical harm or reasonable fear of death assumption doesn’t apply, such as:

  • The individual that was removed is the child or grandchild, or under the lawful guardianship of the individual that uses defensive force against them
  • Force is being used by the defendant against a person that has the right to be in the house or the vehicle
  • Unlawful force is used by the defendant against a police officer who properly identified themselves and then entered or attempted to enter a house or vehicle to do their job
  • The individual that uses defensive force has been using a house or car in order to engage in unlawful activities, or they have been doing unlawful acts

Claiming Self-Defense to Defend Someone Else

Another good defense that others use against assault charges is self-defense in defense of others. This, of course, only applies when you had to defend another individual. It means that you were fearing for the safety of someone else instead of yours and wanted to protect them from the danger. 

But there must be a reasonable cause for you to offer your protection to someone else against another individual’s threatening or forceful acts. Otherwise, it will be hard to claim the defense of others. 

Final Thoughts

You can use self-defense against an assault charge, but you need to prove it. Work closely with your attorney and you should be able to prove self-defense.

For example, the crime rate has been rising in Colorado. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of aggravated assaults, robberies, sex assaults, and homicides has increased by 17%. But sometimes, people are charged with assault when they were actually acting in self-defense. You will need to hire good Denver criminal defense lawyers to prove your innocence.

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