Every person has a fundamental right to defend themselves. However, many people use the term “self-defense” to justify unwarranted aggression, which can make them subject to criminal punishment. This means you could end up serving time in jail or prison for harming another person, even if you were merely defending yourself.
The penalties for these criminal charges depend largely on the violent acts in question. An experienced self-defense lawyer at Berry Law can help you fight your criminal charges stemming from defending yourself.
The Legal Definition of Self-Defense
A legal defense to a charge of a violent crime is self-defense. Those who make the claim of self-defense maintain that their actions were appropriate. It was legal because it was only carried out to stop someone else from using unlawful force.
Self-defense is frequently used as a defense in several criminal proceedings, including:
For a free legal consultation, call 402-466-8444
When You Have the Right to Self-Defense
You have a right to defend yourself or others against aggression (and threats of aggression) from another person, especially if you have reason to believe you are in immediate danger of being harmed through the fulfillment of these threats.
For example, if someone is running toward you with a knife, pointing a gun at you, or otherwise giving you reason to believe they intend to harm you, you may be justified in using proportionate force to contain the threat, deter your aggressor, and preserve your own wellbeing.
The situation you are in plays a large role in determining whether or not an aggressive act is self-defense.
If you believe the threat is imminent, whether it be a verbal or physical threat, your right to self-defense is protected. Once the threat has ended, the right to self-defense ends as well.
The Court and the Jury will evaluate your actions under the circumstances as they existed at the time and consider whether you reasonably believed the force you used was immediately necessary to protect yourself from the threat posed by the alleged victim. And, the fact that you may have been wrong in estimating the danger does not matter so long as there was a reasonable basis for what you believed and you acted reasonably in response to that belief.
Determining what is reasonable depends on the specific situation and the circumstances surrounding the self-defense in question. It is important to understand that a criminal defense attorney with experience defending individuals using self can help prove that your actions were reasonable given the situation and circumstances you were facing.
The degree of force used in defense must generally match or be proportionate to the level of threat the person faces. This means that the person can only use as much force as necessary to stop the threat. If your defensive actions are more extreme than the threat presented, the defense is not justified.
Duty to Retreat vs. Stand Your Ground vs. Castle Doctrine
Certain states require you to try and flee the perceived threat before using force to defend yourself. In Nebraska, this duty is imposed before using deadly force. Deadly force is either 1) the intent to cause death/ serious bodily harm or 2) force used with the knowledge that its use would create a substantial risk of death/ serious bodily harm. For example, before using deadly force, you must either try to get away or demonstrate that you did not try because you reasonably believed you could not do so safely.
However, some states do not require a “Duty to Retreat,” and instead have “Stand Your Ground” laws. Although every state’s laws are different, “Stand Your Ground” laws generally allow you to defend yourself without trying to flee the situation. Another variation is called the “Castle Doctrine,” which generally allows you to defend yourself with lethal force in your home with relaxed consideration for proportionality. In Nebraska, the duty to retreat prior to using deadly force is also relaxed when in your home or work place unless you are the initial aggressor. But, reasonableness is still an important consideration.
Understanding the impact these laws have on your case may seem easy, but there is often confusion. A self-defense attorney may be able to help prove that your actions were warranted.
When Acts of Self-Defense Become Criminal Aggression
You may not always be able to justify unwarranted aggression or violent, disproportionate retaliation in the name of self-defense. You could serve time in jail if a judge or jury determines that your reaction to a perceived threat or act of aggression is disproportionate and goes beyond the provisions of the laws of the state in which charges were filed.
The court may regard you as a violent criminal if you become an aggressor by responding unreasonably or exercising deadly force unnecessarily. If this occurs, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the severity of the damage you cause. If convicted, you may be facing severe punishments. Hiring a self-defense attorney may help protect you.
Click to contact our lawyers today
Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Clients in Nebraska
At Berry Law, we know the difference between self-defense and aggression. We bring decades of experience to the table and have the skill and insight necessary to help you craft a strong defense. Our self-defense lawyers have a proven record of success with cases just like yours. We also understand the importance of demonstrating that the alleged victim was actually the first aggressor.
Securing legal representation promptly after being involved in a violent encounter is key to keeping your criminal case from escalating and resulting in unjust accusations and penalties. If you are facing criminal charges stemming from self-defense, we may be able to provide you with the representation you need. Contact us today to learn more.
Call or text 402-466-8444 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form