The Main Difference Between Self Defense and Assault

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In the state of Arizona law, there is a thin legal line that separates what is self-defense to the crime of assault and what constitutes an assault charge. To avoid crossing the line, you must know what your specific rights are, as well as their limitations.

The Arizona Standing Your Ground and Self-Defense Laws

According to the Arizona self-defense laws, you are under no obligation to retreat before resorting to threat or the use of physical force if you have the legal right to stay where you are. For the purpose of self-defense, using physical force is justifiable. It is also allowed in cases when doing so could stop another person from committing a crime. 

The Arizona self-defense law is spelled out in ARS § 13-404, while the use of lethal physical force is covered in ARS § 13-405. The law says you can employ physical force if the situation warrants it. The force must be reasonable, and it must be in proportion to the gravity of the threat. This means it is unlawful to use unlimited physical force – even in the presence of a threat or if you are in a precarious situation where your life and limb are at risk. 

The law also applies when defending other people who may be in danger or under threat. The use of physical force is allowed, particularly when the people involved cannot defend themselves. However, said force must be to an extent that is deemed reasonable and in proportion to the threat.

When Physical Force Is Not Permissible for Self-Defense

Various situations do not allow the use of physical force as a self-defense strategy. These include the following:

  • There is only a verbal threat.
  • Law enforcement officers are in the process of arresting you.
  • Your action results in the injury or death of an innocent third party.
  • Your action triggered physical force or threats to be thrown your way by another person. 

Aside from the limitations on the situations where you can use physical force, there are also very few instances where you are allowed to employ deadly force.

Deadly physical force is allowable if there is fear of death or immediate serious injury. It goes without saying that you can’t use excessive force simply because someone slapped or pushed you. This is because such action is not proportional to the threat.

If you’re threatened with a gun, for instance, lethal force may be justifiable. But, your response should coincide with the exact moment of the threat. Acting after the incident may be considered vengeance as it is no longer self-defense.

Common Defense Scenarios for Assault Cases

Self-defense is an often-used strategy for cases of assault. If you are charged with the use of excessive force, the charges may be dropped, and your case will altogether be dismissed if your lawyer can prove that your use of physical force was necessary and justified.

However, for the defense strategy to work, there are several things that you need to establish. Aside from the previously mentioned factors, you will also need to prove that there was no other way to diffuse the situation. You must also establish that you didn’t make threats, provoke, or attack the other party first.

When your lawyer invokes self-defense, it will be in the prosecution’s hands to prove that your use of force against another person was not justified in the particular situation. 

Your lawyer can enhance the credibility of this particular defense scenario by making sure of the following:

  • The testimonies of witnesses and experts are reliable.
  • The person you used physical force on has a history of getting into confrontations or violence. This is crucial since your knowledge about the other person’s past history may cause you to feel threatened. 

You can use self-defense when faced with physical violence and other similar crimes. You can stand your ground, and this is a right guaranteed by the Arizona laws. However, there are established legal limits. Thus, you must always exercise extreme caution when standing your ground.  

For example, if a thief attempts to snatch the gadget you are holding in your hands, you can push, slap, or kick the person. However, it would be illegal to pull out a bladed weapon, as this would constitute excessive force. 

Reasonableness and proportionality is an issue decided by the fact finder during a trial, whether it is a judge or jury.  The line is thin and it is quite possible what you believe is reasonable and proportional is not what the fact finder determines. 

If you find yourself on either side of any of the situations discussed above, you should consult with Robert A. Dodell, Attorney At Law, right away. This way, Attorney Dodell can assess the situation and protect your rights.