When police officers respond to a domestic violence disturbance call, it can be difficult for them to determine what actually happened. In the midst of the chaos, an officer may arrest someone who was simply acting in self-defense. Self-defense refers to the act of force used to protect oneself from violence. Many Virginia men and women who have been charged with domestic violence, assault and battery use self-defense as a defense strategy in court. This strategy can lessen the charges or consequences.
The court will use certain criteria to determine whether self-defense was warranted in your case. First, they will consider whether the threat from the other party was imminent. If the other person threatened you in such a way that you feared immediate physical harm, you may be entitled to use self-defense. Use of offensive words alone is not enough to warrant self-defense.
In addition, your fear of the physical harm must have been reasonable. Courts will consider what a reasonable person would have done in circumstances similar to yours. If they would have acted as you did, you may have been justified in your use of self-defense. However, if your fear is found to be objectively unreasonable, you may be in an imperfect self-defense situation. Imperfect self-defense may not get rid of your charges completely, but it can lessen them.
Thirdly, your act of self-defense must be proportional in force to the other party’s threat. For example, you cannot stab someone with a knife if they slapped you on the arm. On the other hand, if the other party attacks you with a knife, then stabbing them may be acceptable self-defense.
The self-defense strategy is common in many criminal cases involving violence and can result in the reduction of criminal charges.
Source: FindLaw, “Self-Defense Overview,” accessed on Feb. 6, 2017