Can self-defense lead to assault and battery charges?

When it comes to assault and battery charges, self-defense is a common defense strategy. After all, no court would expect you to allow someone else to hurt you without trying to defend yourself. There are limitations to how and when you can use this argument, however.

Acting in self-defense does not mean you can physically assault someone and completely escape assault and battery charges, even if you were defending yourself. It is important to understand how the law interprets the right to defend yourself, and how it may apply to your situation.

Did you provoke the attack?

Section 776.041 of the Florida Statutes explains that you are generally unable to use the self-defense strategy if you are the one provoking the attack. The following points are two exceptions to this rule:

  • You provoke an attack that then turns so violent you become afraid for your life and cannot then escape the conflict
  • You provoke an attack and then attempt to withdraw from the situation, but the other party continues to physically assault you, despite you telling him or her you wish to stop

You cannot provoke an attack and then claim self-defense because you are technically starting the conflict.

Was your response proportional?

When it comes to self-defense, courts look at the situation to decide if your response to the conflict is proportional to the threat. If someone hits you in the face and you pull out a gun and kill him or her, for example, your response is not proportional to the threat. Self-defense only works if you use a force similar to that which you experience.

Understanding these key points regarding a self-defense strategy can help you better understand any charges you may be facing.