What is the Defense of Self-Defense?
Hi, this is attorney Kevin Hayslett and the question is what the defense of self-defense is. If you were charged with a crime and part of your defense is that you were defending yourself at the time the crime occurred, let’s say battery that may be a defense of self-defense. Generally the defense of self-defense is used where you may use a battery, you use your hands to touch or strike someone, under the theory that you are defending yourself at the time of the attack. Self-defense relies on the general theory of was the action used by the accused reasonable. The reasonableness test, meaning that if you were involved in a scuffle with someone and you used your hands to thwart an attack it may be reasonable to touch or strike or push that person if you believe or you are in fear of imamate bodily harm. Meaning if you are about to be struck you may defend yourself from that battery by striking or pushing another person. Ultimately the defense of self-defense is determined by the jury, who hears the facts and determines whether or not you’re touching or striking or use of self-defense was reasonable based upon the facts of your case. Sometimes it is not reasonable. For example, if someone is going to hit you with their hand and you shoot them with a gun, most state laws will indicate that is an unreasonable use of force.
A good rule of thumb is that you cannot use any force that is greater than the force being used on you. For example, if someone is going to hit you with their hands, then you can use your hands to self-defend. If someone is going to strike you with a bat or a shovel, than you can use similar weapon to defend yourself. If someone is going to use deadly force on you, say someone is going to shoot you or someone is going to stab you, under most state laws you would be allowed to use similar force to defend yourself. Now a similar question is can I use self-defense to defend a third-party such as a stranger or a family member. Most states will confine the use of self-defense to either you as a person, oneself, or a family member. For example, if someone is going to harm your child, you can use whatever force is reasonable to protect your child. But recall, no matter what state you are in, generally, you cannot use a greater force than is being used upon you or your relative to rely on the defense of self-defense.
Kevin Hayslett, Esq.
J. Kevin Hayslett is an attorney practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and DUI Defense from the Clearwater office and Hillsborough office. Kevin is an avid tennis player and is currently nationally rated in singles and doubles. You can follow Kevin on Google+, or on Radio IO on his show, "Kevin's Law". Kevin can also be heard on the Sirius Satellite Radio show during the "Ask the Lawyer" segment, which can be heard the first Thursday of every month.