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Can you claim self-defense if a fight leads to assault charges?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2020 | College Student Criminal Defense

Verbal disagreements can easily escalate into physical altercations, especially when either alcohol or young-adult socialization plays a role. Whether you got into a fight at a college party or a popular local bar, you could find yourself facing assault charges, particularly if the other party suffered worse injuries than you did.

Assault often involves two people who think they were in the right, and sometimes law enforcement officers arrest and charge the wrong person. The state could decide to charge you with a criminal offense even though you maintain that you did not commit the crime.

For those facing assault charges stemming from a physical confrontation or fight in Georgia, self-defense claims could become the backbone of a criminal defense strategy.

You have the right to use physical force to defend yourself or others

Generally speaking, violence against another person violates the law. However, there are circumstances in which the use of violence is an appropriate response to the situation and therefore legal. When you act in an attempt to defend yourself, others or even private property, you may have the right to use physical force if you deem it necessary for your safety.

For example, if a person verbally threatens you or another individual with immediate bodily harm, using physical force to defend yourself, defend the other person or subdue the violent person doesn’t necessarily break the law. In fact, the code in Georgia is clear that your judgment is what determines the reasonable amount of force needed to protect yourself and others.

You don’t even have the obligation to retreat from a location because of a threat before using force to defend yourself or others. The more serious the threat seems to you, the more justified you are in using violence to address it.

There are many ways to prove a self-defense claim

Exactly how you establish that your actions stemmed from a need to defend yourself and others and not a lack of self-control will depend on the circumstances. Other people present at the time of the altercation could serve as witnesses who corroborate your claims. Security camera footage could also help you prove that you were not the aggressor in the situation.

As with any affirmative defense, claims of self-defense in response to pending assault charges require careful planning and documentation. The sooner you begin your work, the better your chances of success.