7 Legal Defenses to Assault Charges You Need to Know
Assaults – whether using personal weapons like hands, fists, or feet or weapons like guns and blunt objects – are more common than you think. According to Statista, in 2021, there were 1.4 million assaults involving personal weapons, along with an additional 137,473 aggravated assaults using handguns.
Assault charges can have severe consequences and can significantly impact your life. However, all is not lost if you are facing these charges. There is more than one defense to assault charges, and you can use one of the possible defenses to increase the chances of a favorable outcome.
Understanding How Assault Charges Can Impact Your Life
Assault charges can significantly impact your life, even when you are not convicted. In many cases, the mere accusation of assault can harm your reputation, strain personal and professional relationships, and result in financial expenses.
If you are convicted of assault, the consequences can be far more severe, depending on the nature of the offense and your prior criminal record. You may face fines, probation, community service, mandatory anger management, or even time in prison.
But more importantly, a conviction can lead to difficulties in:
- Finding employment.
- Obtaining housing.
- Maintaining custody of your children.
It can also result in losing your right to own firearms, vote, or serve on a jury. As you can see, assault charges can have severe and long-lasting effects on your life. In other words, you need to mount a powerful defense and protect your rights.
Types of Defense to Assault Charges
As mentioned earlier, there is more than one defense to assault charges, ranging from self-defense to mistaken identity. When used correctly, these defenses can significantly impact the outcome of your case. However, you do need to consult a criminal defense lawyer. They can help you devise the appropriate defense strategy.
Here are the seven most common types of defense against assault charges.
Self-defense is one of the most common types of defense against assault charges in the US. If you have been charged with assault but acted in self-defense, you may be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
But there are two critical limitations to this defense.
- First, you must have used reasonable force to defend yourself. It should not be more than necessary to deal with the perceived danger.
- Second, you must not have provoked the other person into attacking you. In short, you shouldn’t have set up an assault on yourself as an excuse to strike back.
To use this as a defense, you must also show that you reasonably believed you were in imminent danger of harm. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you build a strong case and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
2. Defense of Others
As you can imagine, this defense is similar to self-defense. To successfully use this defense, you must prove that you acted in defense of another person who was in imminent danger of harm and that your use of force was necessary to protect them.
But only an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you determine if this defense applies to your case. So, consult an attorney as soon as possible.
3. Defense of Property
A common defense to assault charges, this defense allows a property owner to use reasonable force to protect their property from damage or theft. But the amount of force used must be proportional to the threat posed.
These types of defense are often more complicated. For example, when protecting personal property or your home, you can’t cause bodily harm to the person trying to take it.
You can keep an intruder, like a thief or burglar, from breaking into your home. Given the complexities involved in assault charges, you must speak with a competent criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Consent is another defense to assault charges, particularly in cases where sexual assault or other physical contact, like contact sports, is involved. This defense rests on the argument that the alleged victim gave explicit and informed consent to physical contact.
However, there are a few limitations to this defense. For example, this is not a valid defense if the victim was unable to give consent due to their age, mental state, or other factors. Also, courts tend to scrutinize this defense more closely. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you determine if consent is a viable defense in your case.
5. Lack of Mental State
This defense argues that you did not have the mental state to commit the offense or assault. For example, if you did not intend to cause harm, did not understand the nature of your actions, or didn’t act intentionally or recklessly, you may be able to use this defense.
However, it must be proved that your mental state at the time of the offense prevented you from forming the necessary intent to commit the assault. That’s why you need a good lawyer as early as possible.
Necessity is a defense that contends that your actions were necessary to prevent more significant harm or danger or if you didn’t have an alternative.
For example, if you used force to stop someone from committing a violent crime or to protect yourself or others from more harm, you may be able to use this defense. However, you must prove that your actions were reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.
This defense applies where the defendant acted out of fear for their safety or the safety of others. You can use this defense if you were coerced or threatened with harm if you did not commit the assault. But to defend the assault charges, you need to prove that the threat was immediate and that you had no other reasonable options.
Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Assault charges may have far-reaching consequences and might result in a criminal record, fines, and even imprisonment. However, you can still defend yourself and protect your rights. Self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, consent, lack of mental state, necessity, and duress, are all valid defenses. But you need to seek help from an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine which is your best defense.
Are you facing assault charges in Pennsylvania? MVSK Law, with its team of experienced criminal defense lawyers, can provide you with the legal representation you need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.