Is self-defense a valid defense against domestic assault charges?

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

When a family member or partner acts violently toward you, your first instinct may be to strike back. However, when the police arrive, they may attempt to charge you with domestic assault. If you are facing domestic assault charges in Virginia, proving that you were acting in self-defense may be the best way to have your charges dropped or your sentence reduced.

Establishing self-defense

In Virginia, self-defense refers to using a reasonable amount of force to defend against an imminent threat of serious physical harm or death. You may use this reasonable force to defend yourself or another person you reasonably believe is in danger. The key to proving self-defense is establishing that:

  • You used reasonable force, and your response was proportionate to the other person’s actions. For example, stabbing someone with a knife for slapping you may not be considered reasonable force. However, grabbing their arms to stop them from slapping you would be much more likely to be seen as reasonable.
  • You were not the instigator. If you started the attack, it is unlikely that you will be able to use self-defense to defend against your charges.
  • You were facing imminent harm. The harm you are defending against must be imminent, or something you are expecting in the immediate future.
  • Your fear was reasonable. The court must believe that your fear of imminent harm was reasonable based on the circumstances.

While you should always avoid physically harming another person, there are some situations where you may have to physically harm someone to protect yourself or another person. If you have been charged with domestic assault in Virginia, building a criminal defense strategy based on self-defense may be effective. Eyewitness testimony from those who witnessed the other party’s threatening behavior can be essential to your defense.