These days, many people feel that it is more and more difficult to know how to defend oneself without breaking the law. In many instances, just about any physical altercation between two people can lead to assault charges, which can result in serious criminal punishment.

If you are charged with assault for taking action to defend yourself, you need a strong legal defense. Although self-defense is a powerful justification and carries legal weight, judges do not simply toss out all charges when a defendant claims they were defending themselves. Even if you truly were defending yourself in a conflict, you need legal defense to protect your rights.

What qualifies as self-defense?

In popular culture, there is often a misconception that we are free to hit someone in the face or something similar, as long as we perceive some sort of threat from that person. This is not an accurate understanding of self-defense as the law sees it.

In order to properly claim self-defense, four elements are required. The victim must:

  • Perceive a threat of illegal harm toward themselves or someone else
  • Believe that the other party truly wishes to inflict harm
  • Avoid causing harm first or provoking harm
  • Have no option to retreat or otherwise mitigate the circumstances

We see here that self-defense has several moving parts. It is not always a good defense, even in cases where the other party started the fight.

Defending others

Self-defense may apply to defending others in some circumstances, but those who use it must meet a similarly high standard. In many instances, judges scrutinize claims defending another party even more heavily.

In order for the this defense to hold up, the situation must involve the immediate threat of illegal harm to someone else, and present no other options for resolving the situation or escaping the threat. If you hear a couple arguing and decide to step in and hit one of them to deal with the situation, a judge may have a hard time believing that this qualifies as defense of someone else.

Without a compelling presentation of the evidence, a judge may conclude that you entered someone else’s conflict without cause and struck a stranger.

Don’t wait to build the defense you need

Facing assault charges is not something to take lightly. If you do not have a strong legal strategy to protect yourself, you may end up in jail. The sooner you begin building your defense case, the more likely you are to avoid a bad result.