Self-defense is an important legal defense to battery.
Criminal defense lawyers all know that the law everywhere embraces the concept of self-defense. The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal defendant was not acting in self-defense if the defendant claims that he was acting to defend himself. If you struck another person in order to protect yourself, you have not committed the crime of battery. When using force, self-defense is justified when a reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would believe could avoid the danger by using the force. For instance, it would likely be justified to believe that pushing an aggressor to the ground could avoid a punch.
The person exercising self-defense does not wait to have to be hit first if he is in reasonable fear of harm based on the surrounding circumstances. The physical abilities of both the defendant and the victim are also relevant. Where one person is much smaller, weaker, or disabled, the judge or jury will look to the state of mind of the person who claims he was in fear of harm. If a young man punches an elderly blind woman in the face because he says he feared she would attack him first, a court is not likely to look favorably upon that set of facts.
Criminal lawyers point out that if the victim has a reputation for being violent or aggressive, the judge or jury can also consider that as a factor. For that to be relevant, however, the defendant must have known of the victim’s reputation. Complicating this quirk in the law is the fact that testimony regarding opinions of whether or not a person is especially violent or aggressive are not allowed in court. However, witnesses may testify to the victim’s reputation in the community regarding violence. Also, if the defendant provides evidence on the victim’s violent reputation, the prosecution can call witnesses to testify about the defendant’s reputation for violence, as well.
When determining whether the person using self-defense acted reasonably, the court can also look at whether the same players have previously had violent confrontations and if that factored into the assessment of the situation. When a man has previously been slapped by his wife, for example, he may be justified in pushing her off of him preemptively because he thought she would act aggressively again – even if she had not yet raised her hand to strike him.
Self-defense with deadly force is more complex. When a Floridian is lawfully inside her own home or motor vehicle, she is entitled to the presumption that an intruder is there to harm her. In fact, she is presumed to be in fear so great as to justify the use of lethal force. For this reason, a homeowner who shoots a burglar dead in the middle of the night will almost certainly avoid criminal charges: the law presumes that he feared for his life when confronted with a criminal in his own house.