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Self-defense: when is the use of force justified?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Picture this: you are out at your favorite bar catching up with a long-time friend over a drink when someone suddenly attacks you. First, they go on a tirade, which you ignore. But their aggression doesn’t stop. They physically attack you. And before you know it, you are caught up in a fistfight. Next, you learn that the police are looking for you – you are wanted for assault! How should you handle this incredibly frustrating situation?

One of the defense options that you and your attorney can cite when charged with a violent crime is self-defense. Basically, North Dakota law allows you to apply reasonable force to protect yourself, your property, or someone else from an imminent threat of bodily harm or death.

Understanding the elements of self-defense

Self-defense can be an effective strategy if you are charged with a violent crime. For it to hold, however, the following elements must be met:

  • The aggressor personally confronted you and you could not reasonably leave the scene without getting into a physical altercation.
  • The aggressor threatened to harm or subject you to unlawful force. The threat could be verbal or physical.
  • You did not provoke the aggressor in any way. If you got into a verbal exchange or encouraged them to attack you, then you might have a difficult time using citing self-defense.
  • You genuinely believed the aggressor was going to make true their threat to hurt you.
  • The force you applied was proportionate to the threat in question.

Protecting your rights

By claiming self-defense, you are admitting that you indeed took a particular action. However, this approach emphasizes that you had no choice and that you should not be faulted. As such, it is important that you understand your legal options and obligations when claiming self-defense in response to a criminal charge.