One of the defenses used to defend the accused in a criminal case is self-defense! Criminal defense lawyers plead that their client is not guilty because he/she was trying to prevent physical harm to themselves or to someone else.
Self-defense is used in all cases in which there has been an unlawful use of force such as the battery, murder, etc. In the US both the Federal laws and State laws allow a defendant a self-defense plea if accused of such crimes.
What is the Plea of Self-defense in the Court?
A plea of self-defense is an affirmative defense where the defendant’s lawyer accepts that the defendant has committed the crime and offers justification for the crime. The public prosecutor has to prove that the act by the accused was unjustified beyond a reasonable doubt in front of the jury. The public prosecutor can also try to prove that the extent of force used by the defendant was unnecessary or that self-defense was not required at all!
Although criminal defense attorneys use self-defense pleas to defend their clients, the state has strict laws when it comes to offenses where there is a physical attack on another. This is mainly because of the accessibility of guns and other weapons to citizens.
The plea of self-defense is valid in a court of law only when a person is at risk of being attacked by another and violence is the only way to stop the attack. For a self-defense plea, the defendant or another person must be at risk of getting injured immediately.
A plea for self-defense is not valid if an individual is just being provoked or challenged. Besides, a reaction to a potential or distant threat cannot be defended as an act of self-defense. Self-defense cannot be used as a defense strategy when a violent act is committed in anticipation of an attack or of a perceived threat. When an individual uses force to defend himself from a perceived threat, it is termed “imperfect self-defense.” Imperfect self-defense will not help in proving the defendant not guilty. It can, however, reduce the severity of punishment. In the US, each state has its own definition of imperfect self-defense and many do not recognize it at all.
An appeal for self-defense is considered only when a reasonable force is used to prevent the crime. If the force used to prevent the crime is far beyond the perceived danger then the defendant cannot defend himself using self-defense. Many a time it is difficult to specify the “reasonable force” because it is difficult for an individual under threat to weigh whether the force he uses is in the promotion to the threat he faces. In such cases, the jury assesses the validity of the self-defense plea.
Earlier there was a concept of “duty to retreat” wherein the accused was expected to retreat or move away to save himself/herself from being attacked. However, most states have removed this clause. A self-defense plea is quite complex and only a knowledgeable criminal lawyer can defend you by using it. Consult the experienced criminal lawyers at Autrey Law Firm to help you if you face criminal charges!