Do you understand your rights when it comes to self-defense? 


Too often, people are unclear about what the law says they can and cannot do in a confrontation with another person.


Whether it’s breaking out pepper spray in an altercation or calling a lawyer before responding to threats, having knowledge of the laws surrounding self-defense could make all the difference if things turn sour quickly. 


You see, self-defense is a right that everyone possesses, and it’s the right to protect oneself or others from harm. 


But while the right is legal, it’s not always advisable to use it unless it’s necessary. 


Let’s dive into the legal implications of self-defense to understand what you can and can’t do depending on your situation.

What is Self-Defense?


Self-defense is the use of reasonable force to protect oneself from harm.


It‘s an act of defense when you feel like your safety or that of someone else is at risk. 


Self-defense can either be physical or non-physical, such as using sprays to stop aggressors. 


Note that, self-defense is only legal under certain circumstances as violence is always the last resort.

When is Self-Defense Legal?


The law allows the use of self-defense when it is deemed necessary to prevent harm to oneself or another. 


Essentially, self-defense is legal if it is necessary, immediate, and proportional to the attack. 


These three elements are the pillars of self-defense. For instance, if someone tries to attack you with a weapon, you can use non-lethal force to protect yourself.


It’s important to understand that self-defense laws vary from state to state. 


States like Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have a “duty-to-retreat” law, which is a requirement that one must retreat first if able before using force.


But California has both a “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine.” If someone is threatening you or someone else, you’re under no duty to retreat. You’re allowed to stand your ground and defend yourself. 


Castle Doctrine gives people legal presumption to defend themselves from harm if an intruder enters their home. 


One thing a court considers when determining if one acted in self-defense is the level of fear experienced. 


The fear experienced must be reasonable and not just imagined. 


For example, if someone steals your wallet and then takes out a knife, you have the right to defend yourself, including the use of aggressive force if necessary. But if someone just takes your wallet, you can not respond with aggression, which would then be termed an act of revenge.


Keep in mind that even when one was acting in self-defense, there is still a burden of proof to meet. 


You must provide evidence to demonstrate that you acted in self-defense. 


An eye for an eye position doesn’t will not be accepted.


If you don’t have evidence, you may be charged with the crime which you claim you were defending yourself.

Should you find yourself in that position, it’s advisable to keep any physical evidence, such as a weapon belonging to your attacker or any video recordings, to present in court in case of an eventual trial.


When your life is threatened, any type of legal ramifications is not the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a fight-or-flight type of situation. But having some basic knowledge could bring a sense of calm in a scary situation.


Have questions? Need help with a self-defense charge? Contact our office today!