When can you claim self-defense when facing criminal charges?

Mar 30, 2020 On behalf of Messina & Kiefer, Attorneys at Law

On the scale of what criminal charges are most serious, violent offenses are usually the most concerning and significant. Anyone facing criminal charges related to the use of force or violence will face not only significant criminal consequences but also a lasting negative mark on their criminal record.

Defending against such charges is usually the best option for reducing the impact of the allegation on your life, although doing so can be difficult in some cases. An alibi could help you demonstrate to the courts that you were not present at the time of the alleged offense.

Barring that, or in situations where you don’t deny your involvement, an affirmative defense that asserts that you played a role but did not violate Louisiana criminal statutes in doing so may be the best option. A self-defense claim is a common affirmative defense used by those facing charges such as homicide, manslaughter or assault.

You have the right to defend yourself, others, your property and your home

Louisiana has very clear statutes about when an individual can use physical force as a means of defending themselves, their property or someone else. Anyone facing an immediate threat of physical violence toward themselves or someone nearby can use a reasonable amount of force to defend themselves. Those legally inside a vehicle or building can also use force to defend themselves from someone attempting to force entry without legal permission.

The amount of force you use should reflect the amount of threat experienced in the moment. Those who believe their life or the lives of others are at risk may have justification for using significant physical violence and even deadly force. In fact, under Louisiana law, someone who must defend themselves has no obligation to retreat before doing so.

Self-defense claims depend on your perception of events

Much like workplace harassment, the threat someone poses to others is subject to interpretation, and when it comes to the law, it is the mindset and beliefs of the victim that matter more than the intention of the individual accused of threatening actions or harassment.
Just because someone doesn’t have a history of violence doesn’t mean you can’t assert a reasonable claim of self-defense if you feared for your safety and if you had reason to believe that they intended to follow through on verbal threats, or presented an immediate risk of harm to you or others.


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