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Establishing self-defense in an assault case

| Dec 9, 2020 | Criminal Law

Often, there is more than one story when someone in Lancaster has been arrested for assault. It’s not always clear who started the fight. The person the police arrested may actually have been the victim, not the aggressor.

If you are the one charged with assault, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Still, an affirmative defense like self-defense can help you avoid a guilty verdict. An affirmative defense is a plea that acknowledges you committed the crime you are charged with — but with a legally allowed excuse.

What is self-defense, exactly?

The legal principle of self-defense states that everyone has the right to use force to protect themselves from the threat of death or serious bodily harm. However, this right is not unlimited. In Pennsylvania, if you are able to escape a life-threatening situation, you must do so instead of using force. The only exception is when you are at home: the “castle doctrine” allows you to use force against life-threatening danger while in your home, vehicle or workplace, without having to try to escape first.

Defending others in danger

Besides defending yourself from danger, the right to self-defense includes the right to defend someone else whose safety is in imminent danger. To make a legitimate claim of self-defense on another person’s behalf, you must show that you would have used force if you had been the one in danger and that the person in danger would have used force to defend yourselves, had they been able to.

Establishing self-defense can be tricky. If you need to show that you were justified to do what you did, your best bet is to work with a tough and skilled criminal defense attorney.

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