Using Self-Defense in Criminal Cases

When it comes to trying to develop a defense for a person who is charged with a crime, self-defense is undoubtedly a viable defense in the San Fernando Valley and the courts surrounding a criminal case.

I would say self-defense is probably one of the best defenses in criminal defense because if someone is attacking you and you're trying to defend yourself, or you're trying to protect another person, then you certainly have a good argument if you use reasonable force under the circumstances to defend yourself or that other person.

Self Defense is Acting Reasonably Under the Circumstance

Now, this good part is essential.  In other words, I've seen many people try to claim this defense, but they're not acting reasonably under the circumstances. A good example would probably be if somebody attacked you with their fists and you responded by attacking back with your fists, and that other person got severely injured.

I think the prosecutors would have a real tough road in trying to charge you with a severe battery if there's a bad injury, but I see this happen all the time, and the reason they would have a tough road is that all you did was respond with the same type of force that you were attacked with.

I've seen them charge it, though.  I've seen it charge where the person that's my client has some special training like the person's a boxer or a USC fighter, and they end up seriously injuring the alleged victim in the case.

But once again, if somebody is attacking you with their fists and you respond by defending yourself with your fists, and just because you get the better of the other person — even if that results in a horrible result — you still have a powerful self-defense argument.

Where your self-defense argument goes out the window is when you go too far, and there are a lot of examples in these imperfect self-defense cases where your self-defense is not going to work this time because you went too far. For example, say someone attacks you with their fists, you respond with your fists, you knock the person down, and they are no longer a threat to you.  In that scenario, you then cannot go on and stomp the person's head or beat the person to death once you've already stopped them from attacking you.

Then you would be going too far.  Your actions would no longer be reasonable, and you wouldn't be able to use self-defense.  You may be able to use imperfect self-defense depending on what you get charged with and, once again, the circumstances.

Use of a Weapon and Respond with Deadly Force

Another area where I see people going too far with self-defense is, let's say somebody attacks you with their fists, and then you pull out a weapon — a bat, a knife, a gun — and respond with deadly force.  Now you're going too far, and that's not reasonable.

We can't just say, okay, since someone attacked you with their fists, you can now kill them.  That would be going too far.  That's not going to work; although I have seen scenarios where another person attacked the victim, they were getting the better of the victim. It became a hazardous situation for that victim where they could be killed. They ended up having to use deadly force to protect themselves.  That could be reasonable under the circumstances.

Reasonableness Standard for Using a Self-Defense Argument

When you talk about this reasonableness standard regarding self-defense, you're talking about the average person.  What would the average person do?  What could the average person do?  You could also get into facts about what a particular defendant knew about somebody.

Let's say that somebody attacks you, and you know that someone is known to carry weapons.  That person has threatened you with a gun before, and you get a weapon out because you're afraid.  That might be reasonable self-defense, depending on the circumstances.

Let's say that you know that that person is a fourth-degree blackbelt, and they attack you, and you get a weapon to stop them.  That might be reasonable under the circumstances.  If you pulled a gun out, told them to freeze, and waited for the police, you may have practical self-defense there.  If you pulled out a gun and just shot them when you didn't need to, now you're going too far.  Now you've acted unreasonably under the circumstances, and you've put yourself in an actual lousy position.

Assessing Your Self-Defense Argument

So, in assessing these self-defense arguments in any of the Los Angeles courts, you're going to want to look at what did you do, the circumstances you were confronted with, and really how does it look to an average person. If an average person's looking at it and says, you know what, I don't see what the guy did wrong.  The other person shouldn't have acted like that.  The other person shouldn't have done that.  The other person shouldn't have threatened him.

So again, it always depends on the facts and circumstances, and when it comes to a close case when you really can't tell who's in the right; who's in the wrong — that's when the best criminal defense attorneys come out and have to show that you were in the right.

Have to show that the other party was acting unreasonably.  Maybe you didn't start the whole thing.  Maybe but for the other person's actions, none of it would have happened, and that's undoubtedly a good and relevant point to make in a criminal case when self-defense is a potential defense that you can utilize. So, pick up the phone.  Make the call to the Hedding Law Firm.  Let's sit down.  We'll talk and get down to the crux as to whether or not your self-defense is a reasonable claim or not.