Negotiating Plea Deals

How To Present A Self-Defense Argument

by Flenn Lane

Self-defense is a common argument in assault, battery, and weapons cases. It's important to go about presenting a self-defense argument in a thoughtful manner. Let's look at four steps in presenting this kind of criminal case.

Assess What Happened

For folks presenting self-defense arguments, the events must line up with a legally acceptable version of self-defense. Did you antagonize the other party verbally or physically? Did they present an imminent threat to you or a nearby person? Once you used force, did you use the minimum amount required to get the situation under control?

Courts provide a fair amount of leeway for honest efforts to protect yourself and others, but there is always a point where violence ceases to be self-defense. If you repeatedly punched the person after they were stumbling and unable to fight back, for example, it's a lot more difficult to plead self-defense.

Limit Your Discussions with Police

Particularly when you feel your actions were taken in self-defense, it can be tempting to plead your case with the cops. You have the right to have a criminal defense lawyer present before you answer any questions, and you should exercise it. Wait for your attorney to arrive before you discuss the case with the police.

Making an Argument at Arraignment

Presuming the cops filed charges after the incident in question, you will eventually go to an initial hearing. This will be your first chance to plead your case to a judge. A criminal defense attorney can raise questions about how the incident unfolded and why the police charged you. It's normal for a criminal defense lawyer to move for the court to dismiss the charges at this time.

Heading to Trial

If the case goes forward, you'll still have a few options to work with. First, you'll have a chance to conduct discovery. This is a process where you can demand the production of evidence the prosecution has, such as surveillance videos from near the scene. If the evidence damages the prosecution's case, your criminal defense attorney will once again move for dismissal of the charges.

Secondly, you might consider a plea bargain. It's not uncommon for a prosecutor to accept a guilty plea involving a lesser charge. For example, assault and battery might be bargained down to disorderly conduct.

Finally, you can take the case to trial. Jurors might be receptive to your arguments once your criminal defense lawyer has been explained what happened.

To learn more, contact a criminal defense attorney.