What is the Difference Between Self-Defense and Assault?

If you are arrested on an assault charge, it typically means that you either struck someone or threatened to harm someone even if you did not physically strike that person.

And things get even more serious if you are charged with aggravated assault, because that means you either tried to injure that person, did injure that person, or caused injury with a deadly weapon.

Difference Between Self-Defense and Assault

But in some instances, you may be able to claim self-defense against an assault charge, which could change the way your case is prosecuted and defended.

How To Prove Self-Defense In An Assault Case

The self-defense standard is often used in cases in which someone was killed and the person who is accused of that killing claims that they were in fear of their life and reacted accordingly.

In most states, the standard for self-defense includes:

  • Someone threatened to harm you or to use force against you
  • You believed that someone was trying to harm you based on a reasonable assumption
  • You did not initiate or provoke the incident between you and the other person
  • You did not have a reasonable means of retreating from or escaping the confrontation

So for example, let’s say you walked out of a movie theater and a stranger ran at you and punched you for no reason. You punched that stranger back, which gave you enough time to run to your car and leave the scene.

In that scenario, you could argue self-defense against an assault charge.

The Limits of Self-Defense In An Assault Case

However, self-defense has some limitations, the biggest of which is that the force you use to defend yourself has to be reasonable and within the boundaries of the force used against you.

So in other words, using the example above, you couldn’t grab a baseball bat and beat the person who punched you, because that would constitute the use of unreasonable force to defend yourself.

Another limitation is that if your reasonable force stopped the violent act, you cannot continue to use that force if the other person is subdued. In other words, you must have taken the opportunity to retreat after the situation had de-escalated

Protect Your Rights

If you’ve been arrested on an assault charge, you will need an experienced criminal attorney to determine if you have been properly charged, or if the circumstances of the crime fall under a lesser charge. The team at the McDaniel Group has spent years protecting the rights of its clients. We believe in mounting an aggressive defense against criminal charges, and our investigative resources can help unearth evidence that could benefit you in a trial. Please call us at 202-331-0793 for a free legal consultation.

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