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Self-Defense and Defense of Others

When a spouse, partner, or parent of your child lashes out or threatens you with violence, you may respond by trying to defend yourself. However, when the police show up to investigate, you may end up under arrest even though the other person started the fight. Even if you used force against the other person, force can be justified when it is in self-defense or in defense of others. 

The prosecutor may make it seem like you have no option but to accept a plea deal. Before pleading guilty and dealing with a permanent criminal record, make sure you understand your rights. You have the right to defend yourself from harm and against criminal charges in court. 

If you are facing criminal domestic violence charges in California, contact a local East Bay criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

Self-Defense is an Affirmative Defense

Self-defense is a type of affirmative defense to criminal charges. An affirmative defense generally means that you did do the alleged action but that it was justified and is not a crime under the circumstances. Self-defense can be used in cases of alleged violence, including assault, battery, or domestic violence.

For example, Chris and Jordan get into a fight. Jordan picks up a lamp and swings it at Chris. Chris kicks Jordan in the leg and runs away. If Chris is accused of domestic battery, Chris may have an affirmative defense. Chris did kick Jordan but it should not be a crime if it was done in self-defense. 

Elements of Self-Defense

Self-defense is a defense to domestic violence charges. A defendant is not guilty of domestic battery if he or she used force against the other person in lawful self-defense. A defendant acts in lawful self-defense if: 

  1. The defendant reasonably believed that he or she was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully;
  2. The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND
  3. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

For self-defense, the harm or unlawful touching needs to be imminent. If the defendant is worried about harm or injury that will happen in a few hours, the next day, or sometime in the next year, it will not justify the use of force. 

Self-defense can be used against bodily injury or unlawful touching. If the defendant reasonably believed that he or she was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully, such as sexual assault, groping, or fondling, using lawful force in self-defense is justified. 

The use of force must also be proportionate and reasonable. The defendant can only use the amount of force that a reasonable person would believe is necessary in the same situation. For example, if someone was going to slap the defendant, the defendant would not be justified in pulling out a knife and stabbing the other person. 

What is a Reasonable Threat of Harm? 

Whether the threat of harm, injury, or unlawful touching was reasonable may be a question for the jury. There are a number of factors that can go into determining whether the defendant's conduct and beliefs were reasonable, including: 

  • The alleged victim threatened or harmed the defendant in the past;
  • The defendant knew that the alleged victim had threatened or harmed others in the past; and
  • The defendant received a threat from someone else that he or she reasonably associated with the alleged victim. 

Defense of Others in Domestic Violence

Defense of others is another affirmative defense that might be available in a domestic battery case. A defendant is not guilty of domestic battery if he or she used force against the other person in lawful defense of another. A defendant acts in lawful defense of another if: 

  1. The defendant reasonably believed that someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully;
  2. The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND
  3. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

Defense of another is sometimes used in domestic violence cases where a spouse, partner, or mother or father of the child might harm a child or other family member. If a child or other person is in immediate threat of injury or unlawful touching, anyone can step in and use force to protect the other person. 

East Bay Defense Lawyer for DV Charges 

Sometimes the use of force is justified or necessary to protect oneself or others. Unfortunately, the police and prosecutor do not always get all the facts before making an arrest and prosecuting someone for domestic battery in California. 

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of criminal defense experience and understands the importance of building a strong defense to avoid a criminal conviction and keep a clean record. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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