Victims of domestic violence are sometimes forced to defend themselves if their partner attacks them or their children. In many cases, victims of domestic violence have legal justification to cause harm in the name of self-defense, even if their actions would normally be considered a crime. However, these cases are not always simple to prove, making it especially important that victims of domestic violence hire a criminal defense lawyer to advocate for them and protect their rights.
If you are a victim of domestic violence who has been arrested or charged with a crime after defending yourself from your partner, you have rights and deserve support. An experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Dod Law, APC can review the facts of your case and help advise you on your next steps.
What Is Self-Defense?
While the concept of self-defense may seem straightforward, California laws have specific definitions that apply when self-defense is used as a legal defense for a crime.
If you claim self-defense as a justification for a crime, you are arguing that you used violence or force against another person to protect yourself, your property, or another person, often a child. Essentially, you are admitting you broke the law but that you had a good reason to do so. Self-defense cases are most common during domestic abuse disputes or in the circumstance of an attempted assault.
What Qualifies As Domestic Violence in California?
Many different crimes can fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. Generally, it is a crime to harm or threaten a spouse or intimate partner. Specific charges for domestic violence can include domestic battery or inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner. However, domestic violence might also include charges like assault, assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, and homicide.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and have been charged with any of the crimes listed above, you could have a strong justification for self-defense. The same is true if you were trying to protect your children from your partner. Your lawyer can review your case to ensure your actions as a victim of domestic abuse align with the legal justifications for self-defense.
What Are the Justifications for Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases?
In general, self-defense laws work to prevent people who face legitimate threats from incurring criminal consequences when defending themselves. However, the law requires specific conditions to exist to justify self-defense in any criminal case. These conditions are:
Belief of Imminent Danger or of Suffering Bodily Injury
Self-defense is only a valid defense when someone believes they are in immediate danger. The danger of harm cannot be a week from now or a few hours from now. For example, if your partner held a knife on you and you used force to stop the threat, it would likely qualify as self-defense. However, if your partner flashed a knife at you to scare you and threatened to use it later in the day, and then you used force to protect yourself, it would not qualify as self-defense because you were not in imminent danger.
Belief in the Immediate Use of Force to Defend Against Harm
Domestic violence cases are different from other assault or battery cases because partners often live with each other and have a history. In some domestic violence cases, an aggressor may not mean any immediate harm to a victim.
However, their past behaviors may create a credible threat in which a reasonable person in the same situation would have also perceived an immediate threat of bodily harm. The idea of reasonable belief in the immediate use of force is highly subjective, but it helps evaluate where self-defense is justified.
Use of No More Force than Reasonably Necessary for Defense
Those using self-defense as justification for a crime in domestic violence cases must only have used enough force that is reasonably necessary to defend themselves. If a court finds a victim of domestic violence used more force than necessary to stop their partner, they cannot justify the act as self-defense. However, the law recognizes that domestic violence is not typically a single event. Victims have often been harmed or threatened multiple times in the past, so they can be justified in acting more rapidly or using more force than one might originally expect.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer at Dod Law, APC For Help With Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic violence cases are highly complex and emotionally charged. Defending yourself from your partner should not put you in danger of criminal prosecution and the penalties it carries. A skilled member of Dod Law, APC’s legal team can work with you in order to build a defense against your charges and help protect your rights.
Contact us online or call (619) 814-5110 to discuss your case with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn more about how we can help you through this difficult situation. We can help provide the support and knowledge you need in order to potentially reduce any charges against you.