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How well do self-defense claims hold up in court?

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2023 | Criminal Law

Pennsylvania prosecutors can file charges against people for a wide assortment of different behaviors. Certain criminal accusations carry worse penalties and more social stigma than others. For example, violent criminal charges have a tendency to lock people out of many opportunities in life, from new jobs to volunteering at their children’s schools.

Assault and other violent crimes can lead to major criminal penalties and lasting personal consequences for those convicted. One of the possible defense strategies for an individual accused of interpersonal violence is to assert that they acted in self-defense.

Self-defense is an affirmative defense strategy

Claiming that someone acted in self-defense is a form of affirmative defense. Traditional criminal defense strategies raise questions about whether someone broke the law. People provide alibis or question the accuracy of the evidence connecting them to a crime.

Affirmative defenses are different. People do not question their involvement in an incident but rather try to change the way the courts perceive that situation. In a self-defense claim, a person alleges that they may have engaged in violence but did so for a justifiable reason. The law in Pennsylvania permits individuals to use physical force to protect themselves, their property and other people. Self-defense claims are a viable defense strategy in some scenarios.

How successful are self-defense claims?

Numerous factors influence the success of a self-defense claim during a criminal trial. The crime that prosecutors allege someone committed and the situation itself that led to the violence can influence how strong someone’s self-defense claim actually is.

The relationship they have with the other party is also an important consideration. Someone who has a history of aggressive and unpleasant interactions with the other party may either be in a better position to assert that they defended themselves against a known bully or may struggle more because they have previously injured the other party in a different incident. The degree of violence involved is also important. Self-defense claims generally require that reasonable people would also fear for their safety in the same situation and that they would agree that the amount of force used was appropriate.

It can be difficult for an individual who is unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system to evaluate different possible defense strategies. Discussing the situation with a defense lawyer can help someone determine how likely they are to prevail when claiming they acted in self-defense.



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