Many domestic violence incidents involve self-defense. Unfortunately, claiming self-defense as a defense to domestic violence charges isn't foolproof. It's not enough to claim you were using self-defense, and not all acts of self-defense leave you immune from criminal liability. To help clear up some of the common concerns regarding this defense tactic, here are five tips for when claiming self-defense in domestic violence cases.
1. Know the Law
Self-defense is only an acceptable defense to domestic violence charges if certain elements are met. In general, California law states you cannot be guilty of a violent crime if you were acting in self-defense. But this is a blanket statement that doesn't delve into the nuances of this law. First, your conduct must be considered “reasonable” under the circumstances. Unreasonable acts of self-defense may not pass the test. So what is “reasonable”?
For an act of self-defense to be considered reasonable under the circumstances, you must have:
- Reasonably believed you were in imminent danger of being killed, injured, or touched unlawfully
- Reasonably believed you needed to use force to protect yourself, and
- Used no more force than was necessary to prevent it from happening.
Unless you can prove the above elements, you might have a hard time claiming self-defense.
2. Work With an Attorney
Due to the specific elements reviewed above, you need to work closely with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney whenever trying to claim self-defense. The reason for this is simple. Proving your conduct was reasonable under the circumstances takes a combination of solid evidence and skilled legal argument.
3. Analyze the Situation Retrospectively
Try to jot down notes about the incident while it's still fresh in your memory. It's best to try to remember all that happened clearly. The judge and jury were not there at the time you used self-defense. You will have to recreate the incident using evidence, so consider why you felt you were in imminent danger, why you felt force was necessary, and why you used the level of force you did. Then, give all that information to your attorney.
4. Know How to Prove Reasonable Force
Vital in claiming self-defense is proving you used no more force than necessary. Can you demonstrate this? Discuss the facts and circumstances of your offense with your attorney. Evidence the accuser harmed you or threatened to harm you in the past can help in this effort. Copies of text messages, voicemails, or threatening emails are good examples of useful pieces of evidence.
5. Produce Evidence of Your Character
Your character and past conduct may help you claim self-defense. Gather any information you feel might be of help to prove your character. Convincing the judge or jury your conduct was reasonable and not excessive is a crucial step in claiming self-defense.
Find an Advocate to Fight Your Charges
These cases can feel like an impossible battle. The courts don't take self-defense claims as seriously as they should. Unfortunately, people who acted purely in self-defense are convicted of domestic violence crimes every day. Does that mean you should give up hope? No. In reality, self-defense is a legally valid claim. You should not accept a conviction for what was an act of self-protection. You should, however, expect to put up a fight. Working with a highly experienced domestic violence defense attorney can help you claim self-defense and fight your charges effectively.
If you've been falsely accused of domestic violence, take action before it's too late. Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno, or Kings County. Experienced in domestic violence defense, our Visalia area legal team can help you fight your charges and clear your name. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.