A universal principle states that a person can protect themselves from damage in certain circumstances even when the conduct that normally would constitute a crime. In the american legal system, all of the states, like the federal government, allow a defendant alleges self-defense to an accusation of a violent crime. However, the specific rules relevant to the self-defense vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This article explain s the general concepts that comprise the law of self-defense in the united States, but you should check the laws in your particular jurisdiction in order to understand the specific requirements to claim self-defense.
The self-defense: An introduction
The self-defense is defined as the right to prevent suffering force or violence to counter with a sufficient level of force or violence. This definition appears to be fairly simple, but raises many questions when applied to real situations. For example, what is meant by “a sufficient level of force or violence” to defend themselves? What would be a level exaggerated? What happens if the alleged victim provoked the attack? What victims should avoid violence if possible? What happens when the victims perceive reasonably a threat, even if it turns out that such a threat does not exist? What happens when the fear of the victim is genuine subjective level but irrational to target level?
As you can see, self-defense is more complicated than it seems at first. In order to deal with the great diversity of situations in which it invoked the self-defense, states have developed rules to determine when to allow the self-defense and how much force you can use a victim to protect themselves. As we have mentioned, the rules exact differ in each state, but the considerations are basically the same.
What the threat is imminent?
As a general rule, the self-defense only justifies the use of force when used in response to an immediate threat. The threat may be verbal, provided that it provokes an immediate fear in the alleged victim about the physical damage. However, the offensive words without a threat concurrent immediate physical harm does not justify the use of force in self-defense.
Also, the use of force in self-defense is generally not warranted once you have stopped the threat. For example, if an aggressor attacks a victim, but puts an end to the attack, and indicates that there is no longer a threat of violence, the threat of danger has ended. Any use of force on the part of the victim against the attacker at that point would be considered retaliatory and not self defense.
Does the fear of a possible harm was reasonable?
Sometimes, the self-defense is justified even if the alleged perpetrator was not actually intended to harm the alleged victim. What matters in these cases is whether a “reasonable person” in the same situation would have perceived an immediate threat of physical harm. The concept of “reasonable person” is a legal presumption that is subject to different interpretations in practice, but it constitutes the best tool of the legal system to determine if a person’s perception about an imminent harm justifies the use of force to protect yourself.
To give an example, imagine two strangers walking in opposite directions in a city park. Without knowing it, one of them has a bee zumbándole around the head. The other person sees it and, in an attempt of kindness, stretches quickly the arm towards the person to try to scare off the bee. The person with the bee in the head sees the hand of a stranger quickly go to his face and hits it with violence to get her away. While this normally would be an assault, a court could easily rule that the sudden movement of the hand of the stranger to the face of a person would cause a reasonable person comes to the conclusion that he was in danger of immediate physical harm, which would justify the use of force as an exercise of the right of self-defense. All this despite the fact that the alleged attacker was not intended to hurt anyone; in fact, I wanted to help!
Sometimes, a person may have a genuine fear of imminent physical harm that is objectively reasonable. If the person uses force to defend against the perceived threat, the situation is known as “self-defense, imperfect.” This type of self-defense do not pound to a person of the crime of the use of violence, but it can lessen the charges and the sanctions received. However, not all states recognize self-defense imperfect.
For example, a person is waiting for a friend in a coffee shop / café. When the friend arrives, he walks towards the other person with the arm extended to shake hands. The person who has been waiting fear in truth that your friend intended to attack him, while your fear is totally irrational. In order to avoid the perceived threat, the person hits his friend in the face. Although the plea of self-defense of the person does not get rid of the criminal charges due to the irrational nature of their perception, it could decrease the severity of the charges or the possible sentence.
Some states also consider self-defense imperfect cases in which a person claiming self-defense provoked the attack. For example, if a person creates a conflict that becomes violent and then kills the other party is not intentional to defend, the plea of self-defense might reduce the charges or the punishment, but not would dismiss the entire murder.
The use of self-defense must also be equivalent to the level of the threat in question. In other words, a person may only use the amount of force necessary to neutralize the threat. If the threat involves deadly force, the person who is defending can use deadly force to counter the threat. However, if the threat involves only a force mild and the person claiming self-defense uses force that may cause bodily injury or important death, the allegation of self-defense will not prosper.
Duty of away
The original laws regarding self-defense required people claiming self-defense will attempt first to avoid the violence before using force. This is also known as “duty away”. While most states have removed this rule for instances involving the use of non-lethal force, many states still require that a person try to escape the situation before applying a lethal force.
Defend your position
As opposed to the duty to walk away, many states have enacted the so-called laws to “defend your position”. These laws dilute the duty to walk away and allow a plea of self-defense even if the declarant did not do anything to get away from the threat of violence. As we have mentioned, this is the norm more often when the situations involve non-lethal force. However, the states do not end up deciding on the principle to defend his position when it comes to lethal force. For more information, please refer to the article to Defend your position of FindLaw.
The Doctrine Of ‘Castle’
Even in states that require a person to move away from the threat of imminent harm before defending themselves, a person can usually make use of lethal force against someone that enters your home illegally. This standard, also known as “the doctrine Castle”, allows people to defend their homes against intruders by the use of lethal force. Like most of these rules, the result will vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific facts of the case, which is always a good idea to consult a lawyer for more information.