Assualt Charges: Three Key Defenses

An assault charge is a very serious matter, and you will need a strong defense to be acquitted at trial. You have several types of defenses available when an assault case comes before a judge and jury. This article examines three of the most common defenses in assault cases.


Self-defense is a valid defense to an assault charge in every state. For this defense to be accepted, however, the circumstances surrounding the incident must meet various conditions. Typically, the law requires that someone claiming self-defense must face an imminent threat, not a vague threat of future harm. Also, the fear of being harmed must be reasonable. The term reasonable is subjective, but courts tend to base their rulings on how the average reasonable person would respond in the same set of circumstances.

Also, when you claim self-defense in response to an assault charge, the law expects that the amount of force used is proportional to the threat. If someone shoves you, for instance, you do not have the right to use deadly force against them in response.

An important point to remember is that some states follow a legal doctrine called a duty to retreat. This doctrine requires those who are threatened or subjected to violence need to remove themselves from harm's way, if possible. Only if they cannot retreat does the law in these jurisdictions allow a violent response.

Protecting Others

In addition to defending yourself, you also have the right to defend others in some situations. Most jurisdictions allow you to use force against another person in order to prevent imminent harm to a third party. A few jurisdictions allow this defense only if you have a special relationship with a third party, such as a parent and child relationship. Protecting other defenses, like the self-defense doctrine, requires that the amount of force used to be proportional to the threat to the third party.

Protecting Property

In some circumstances, you have the right to use force to defend property. This right, however, is somewhat more limited in scope than the right to protect yourself or other people.

Although state laws can vary, you typically have the right to use non-deadly force when someone is in the act of taking property that you legally possess. You generally do not have the right to use force to regain property taken earlier.

Assault charges put you at risk of incarceration and require the assistance of expert counsel. For more information, consult an assault attorney near you.