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How can self-defense be applied to assault accusations?

On Behalf of | May 2, 2023 | Criminal Law

People in Pennsylvania might be arrested for assault if they get into a physical altercation in a public area. They may also be arrested long after an encounter with someone else. There are even scenarios wherein individuals get arrested and are completely unaware of the precipitating circumstances that led to their policing encounter because they had nothing to do with the original incident.

Assault charges are potentially life-altering allegations, as a guilty plea or a conviction might mean that an individual is compelled to endure limited opportunities because of their criminal record for the rest of their life. Fighting back against those allegations is often the best response for those who assert that they did not intend to harm another person or violate state law.

Self-defense claims are a type of affirmative defense

Individuals who have been accused of violating the state prohibition on violent physical contact can potentially push back against the charges that they face by asserting that they acted in self-defense. When a lawyer presents a claim of self-defense during a criminal trial, they will attempt to establish that the defendant did not violate the law because their use of physical was a response to an imminent threat.

Both fear for one’s personal well-being and concern for someone else’s safety when witnessing a crime can justify an individual’s use of physical force to protect themselves or stop a crime in progress.  Unlike other criminal defense strategies that seek to raise questions about whether someone committed certain actions, an affirmative defense like a claim of self-defense seeks to reframe the behavior to show that it was technically legal.

Someone’s fear for their safety must be reasonable

There are limitations on self-defense claims that influence how a lawyer will explain the situation to the courts. Provided that the defendant claiming they acted in self-defense was not violating the law when they encountered the other party and did not instigate the incident or initiate physical contact, they may be able to convince the courts that they acted to protect themselves or others and therefore did not commit a crime.

Additionally, the fear someone experiences needs to seem reasonable to others. There can also be questions about the degree of force used to defend oneself based on someone’s analysis of the threat to their safety. Self-defense claims are only one of several ways in which those facing assault charges in Pennsylvania can potentially avoid a conviction.

Seeking legal guidance in order to learn about the most common and effective criminal defense strategies can be a smart move for those who have recently been arrested and are facing charges.



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