Domestic violence cases can be tricky, often devolving into a he-said, she-said situation. Sometimes, it can be difficult to recognize when physical actions are necessary in order to protect oneself and when such actions will only make the situation worse. In these cases, there is a thin line between self-defense and domestic violence.
The Difference Between Self-Defense and Domestic Violence
In order to understand the difference between self-defense and domestic violence, it is important to first define what these terms mean separately. Self-defense is when a person uses physical force in order to protect him or herself from an attempted injury by another person. If the physical force is used solely for the purpose of protecting oneself from harm, then the use of force is considered lawful. Domestic violence, on the other hand, is when a person engages in violent or aggressive behavior to harm another person, usually a spouse or a child.
The primary difference between what is considered self-defense and what is considered domestic violence is the motivation for the actions and the events leading up to the incident. In self-defense situations, the motivation must be the protection of oneself from harm. For instance, if another person is threatening to inflict injury upon you, you are entitled to use physical force to defend yourself. In domestic violence situations, the motivation may come from any number of sources such as feelings of anger or shame. The violence may even come unprovoked. In these cases, the use of physical force is criminal and you may face prosecution.
If you are accused of domestic violence in California, you cannot be convicted of the crime if you can prove that you were acting in self-defense. However, this is not always easy to prove. The elements of self-defense are:
- The defendant reasonably believed that he/she was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury
- The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger
- The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger
In addition, belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how likely the harm is believed to be. The defendant must have believed there was an imminent danger of bodily injury. Furthermore, the defendant’s belief must have been reasonable. When evaluating whether the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable, the court will consider all the circumstances as they were known to and appeared to the defendant and consider what a reasonable person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have believed. If the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed.
The Difficulty with Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
Self-defense can be especially difficult to prove in domestic violence cases. First of all, self-defense is an affirmative defense, meaning you and your attorney will have to prove each element of self-defense before a jury can acquit you. Additionally, juries may already have a bias in domestic violence cases, often siding with the prosecutor. This may hold especially true if you appear to be the physically stronger person in the relationship. As such, it is critical that you hire an experienced defense attorney if you are accused of domestic violence. A skilled attorney will be able to provide evidence showing that you acted in self-defense so that you cannot be convicted of the crime.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you have been accused of domestic violence, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients defend against domestic violence accusations, and we have the skills and resources to help you clear your name and avoid hefty fines and jail sentences.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you.
Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.