If you live in New York, you can fight against attackers without worrying about being charged. New York Penal Law’s Article 35 authorizes an aggrieved party to use force to protect themselves when physically attacked. If you are attacked, you can use the legal maneuver of “justification” as a defense in a court of law if you are charged.
If you are defending yourself and the person dies, you could be charged with manslaughter, murder or other serious crime. The prosecutor has the burden to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. However, New York Penal Law §35.15 can protect your actions if you believe physical force is necessary to defend yourself or another person from harm. The operative word is “reasonable.” The power you use to protect yourself must reasonably correspond to the threat. Using excessive, repetitive force or a weapon against an unarmed assailant is not a reasonable response.
As with many laws, there are actions outside this law for which justification is not an option. For example, if you started a physical altercation or provoked the opponent, you cannot claim self-defense. Likewise, if the fight was mutually agreed upon, the argument of self-defense for using force is not an option for you. Furthermore, killing another person using the law of justification can only be claimed if you believe someone is about to kill you or someone else. However, §35.15 mandates that you retreat before using deadly force if you can do so with absolute safety to you and others, if applicable.
There is no duty to retreat if you are already in your home and did not provoke the aggressor. Furthermore, if the attacker is committing or about to commit certain violent crimes against you, you can fight back without the duty to retreat being applicable herewith. The use of physical force against someone is a serious matter. However, you can legally defend yourself without a commitment to withdraw if you believe your life or safety is in jeopardy.