For the most part, it is against the law to intentionally cause physical harm to another person. However, there are a few scenarios in which the state will not criminally punish those who injure others. For example, those accused of assault may seek to defend against criminal charges by claiming that they acted in self-defense.
In other words, they will ask the courts not to punish them because their intent was not to cause offensive harm but rather to protect themselves from an immediate threat. For someone to make a claim of self-defense, they need to reasonably believe it was necessary to use force for their own protection. Whether or not someone can use a self-defense claim in response to violent criminal charges depends on whether their case meets the reasonableness standard, and these cases are almost always incredibly complicated.
What is the reasonableness standard?
There are some people who are more frightened and reactionary than others. There are also some people who are far more aggressive than the average adult. What these individuals view as appropriate may not align with the general social consensus on the matter.
When the courts have to evaluate someone’s claim that they acted in self-defense, the reasonableness standard will determine whether someone can mount a self-defense claim in criminal court. Potentially, the question that matters in such cases is whether a reasonable person would find the situation threatening and would reach the conclusion the other party had done something wrong.
If a defense attorney can convince that other reasonable adults would also find the situation threatening and would therefore likely attempt to defend themselves, the person accused may have grounds for asserting a self-defense claim during their trial.
Factors that might help a defendant meet the reasonable list standard include verbal threats, prior physical altercations, recent electronic threats, intentionally intimidating body language, displaying a deadly weapon lunging or running at someone. So long as there was something clearly threatening that the average person would find concerning, the circumstances may justify a defendant’s claim that they acted in self-defense.
Learning more about the rules that apply to self-defense claims and other defense strategies by speaking with an experienced legal professional can help those who are facing accusations of committing a violent crime.