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Can people fight assault charges if they acted in self-defense?

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Violent criminal charges carry significant social stigma. People who face accusations of assaulting someone else are at risk of a criminal record that could forever change the course of their lives. Employers, landlords and educational institutions frequently require background checks before hiring a worker, enrolling a new student or signing a lease with a prospective tenant. Even those who may sometimes overlook prior offenses may feel differently with the infraction involves physical violence.

Although assault charges are arguably the least serious accusations of violence that someone could face, they can still hold someone back in life. The Kentucky criminal courts could also impose a variety of different penalties after a guilty plea or conviction. Those who decide to fight back against pending charges could avoid the criminal and social consequences of a conviction.

Could someone accused of assault successfully raise the claim that they acted in self-defense?

Affirmative defenses can be a viable strategy

A self-defense claim in criminal court is a type of affirmative defense. The defendant’s lawyer does not try to prove that an incident didn’t happen or that someone else was responsible. Instead, the goal is to establish mitigating factors that mean someone’s conduct was not criminal.

In Kentucky, it is legal for someone to use physical force to protect themselves from what they perceive as an imminent threat. So long as other reasonable people agree that the situation involved an immediate threat of bodily injury, someone may be able to successfully claim that they acted in self-defense.

There are certain rules that generally limit self-defense claims. Usually, the individual claiming they acted in self-defense cannot be the party who instigated the incident. Additionally, claims of self-defense may not be an option if someone broke the law immediately prior to the altercation or trespassed on someone else’s property.

Those in a location where they have a lawful right to be and who did not intentionally provoke the other party involved in the incident could theoretically avoid an assault conviction by asserting that they acted with the intention to defend themselves. Those who understand state law may have an easier time avoiding a conviction when facing assault charges. Thus, learning more about assault, self-defense and state statutes by seeking legal guidance may benefit those recently accused of a violent offense.