Violent Crime or Self-Defense?

Violent crimes are some of the most heavily-penalized offenses in California’s legal code because of their offense to the public consciousness. However, they’re also somewhat unique in that there are times where a violent offense can be justified. If you or someone else near you is having force used against them or being threatened against them, the law does allow for you to use force back to protect yourself and prevent the harm from coming to you or someone else.

However, the law also states that the force used in retaliation must not be excessive, and that means the line between a violent crime and self-defense can often be thin and sometimes even a little blurry. On this blog, we’ll explain the difference between a violent crime and self-defense and help you determine whether or not self-defense is a viable option for defending against your prosecution.

Violent Crimes vs. Self-Defense

How can you tell the difference between a violent crime and something done in self-defense? To understand, we first need to take a look at what the law says about self-defense. Self-defense can only be claimed when violent conduct is “justified” based on the situation, and the only situations when violent conduct is justified is when someone’s safety, either yours or someone else’s, is under threat from someone else.

Let’s take a look at an example. A burglar breaks into a house in the middle of the night, alerting the sleeping resident, who grabs his gun from his bedside table. Upon confronting the burglar, the burglar becomes frightened, turns, and fires his own weapon at the resident. The shot misses, but the resident then fires a shot that strikes the burglar, severely injuring him and incapacitating him until the police arrive.

By the letter of the law, the resident shooting and injuring the burglar would make them guilty of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. However, because the burglar fired first, the circumstances changed. At this point, there became a very real and imminent threat of violence against the homeowner, which means that the homeowner, fearing for their own personal safety, has justification to respond using force of their own. In this case, you could argue that there was no violent crime, or any crime at all for that matter because the use of force was justified.

Excessive Force

While the law does allow you to use force to protect yourself, you’re only allowed to use force that’s similar to that which is being threatened. Using excessive force is not justified, and thus is still eligible for criminal prosecution.

Let’s look at another example of this at work. Say that same robber breaks into the home, but upon being startled, they simply turn around and hold their hands up. Of course, the homeowner could still be extremely frightened and concerned about what the burglar may do, but without the weapon in hand the threat of harm falls significantly lower. In this case, if the homeowner were to shoot the burglar, even though they may have done it instinctually and out of fear, they could still be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Retain an Attorney

As you can see, the fact that the line between a violent offense and a justified use of force is so thin means that you could wind up facing criminal charges for something you believed to be justified. This is why it’s so crucial that you have an attorney on your side who can work with you and fight for your side of the story, showing evidence that your conduct and use of force was justified in your particular situation.

Retain an attorney for your case today by calling The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch at (559) 484-2112!
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