Assault and self-defense are two terms that often emerge in legal discussions. While the former refers to the intentional and unlawful threat or use of force against another person, the latter is a legal justification for using force to protect oneself from imminent harm. In some cases, however, self-defense may be misconstrued as an assault, leading to confusion and potential legal consequences. So if you’re wondering — can I be charged with assault if I acted in self-defense? Read on to learn more.
The specific circumstances of the particular incident will ultimately decide the answer to this question. That said, Nebraska laws recognize your right to defend yourself against imminent harm. However, you must meet certain criteria to use this defense, as we will discuss shortly.
<h2>Overview of Assault and Self-Defense Laws in Nebraska </h2>
In Nebraska, an assault occurs when someone intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person or threatens to do so. Assault can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense. Aggravated assault involves using a dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury and is considered a felony offense.
On the other hand, self-defense is a legal defense against assault charges in Nebraska. In the Cornhusker State, you can use reasonable force to defend yourself or others from an imminent threat of bodily harm. However, you can only use force in certain situations, such as when you reasonably believe that such force is necessary to protect yourself or others from the imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm.
It is also worth noting that in Nebraska, you may claim self-defense even if you were wrong about the other party’s intentions. In other words, just as long as you had a reasonable belief that the other party was a danger to you or another, you may be able to use self-defense as an actual defense against assault charges pressed against you.
That said, each situation is unique, so it is always advisable to work with an experienced Nebraska self-defense lawyer. We will discuss in detail how such an attorney can help shortly.
<h2>Understanding Intentional Tort vs. Negligence In Assault Cases </h2>
In the context of tort law, which deals with civil wrongs, assault can be either intentional or the result of negligence. However, intentional tort and negligence are distinct legal concepts that apply differently to assault cases.
Intentional tort refers to a deliberate act that causes harm to another person, either physically or emotionally. In the context of assault, intentional tort occurs when one person intentionally causes another person to fear for their safety through threatening words or actions. For example, if a person threatens to hit another person with a golf club and then swings the club at them—this would be an intentional tort (because they intended to do so).
Remember, the key word here is ‘intent.’
On the other hand, negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation, and harming another person as a result. In the context of assault, negligence occurs when a person fails to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm to another person. A good example is when someone swings a golf club in a crowded area and accidentally hits another person; this would be a case of assault caused by negligence.
In assault cases, intentional tort and negligence can both be used as legal concepts to determine liability and, to some extent, penalties for the harm caused. However, intentional tort requires a higher standard of proof. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant intended to harm them. In contrast, negligence only requires evidence that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, meaning they were negligent.
<h2>Is Nebraska a ‘Stand Your Ground’ State? </h2>
Nebraska does not follow the ‘stand your ground’ legal doctrine. Instead, the state follows the ‘duty to retreat’ principle.
This legal concept requires an individual to try to avoid using force in self-defense by retreating or avoiding the threat if it is safe to do so, rather than using force. Under this concept, you may use deadly force in self-defense only as a last resort when retreating is impossible or unsafe.
Here is a hypothetical example:
John and Peter have a heated argument outside their apartment complex. In the heat of the moment, John threatens to harm Peter. He then rushes back into his apartment, grabs a toy gun, and returns, pointing it at Peter and threatening to shoot. Sensing danger, Peter grabs a golf club and hits John.
In such a situation, many factors will come into play when determining whether it was a case of assault or self-defense. Ultimately, the judge or jury will likely rule that situation as self-defense because Peter had a reason to believe that his life was in danger, given the use of a toy gun by his friend John. This is especially true if the toy gun resembled an actual gun and Peter, including any other reasonable individual under such circumstances, couldn’t tell that the gun was fake.
So, even though Nebraska is not a ‘stand your ground state’, the fact that Peter reasonably believed that his life was in danger before assaulting John could mean he acted in self-defense.
But again, each situation is unique. Only after consulting with an experienced self-defense lawyer in Nebraska will you understand the best way to navigate your case.
<h2>When Should I Hire a Self-Defense Lawyer? </h2>
Generally, you’ll need a self-defense lawyer if you have been involved in a situation where you used force in self-defense or are facing criminal charges for assault. Additionally, you may need such an attorney if you:
<li>are being investigated for a crime related to self-defense; </li>
<li>want to file a civil lawsuit related to an assault or battery; </li>
<li>want to appeal a conviction related to self-defense; </li>
<li>need legal advice on self-defense laws in Nebraska and your rights; or </li>
<li>are facing potential jail time or other serious consequences due to a self-defense incident. <li> </ul>
<h2>What Are the Penalties for Assault in Nebraska? </h2>
The penalties for assault in Nebraska vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case and the category of assault. Generally, there are three main categories of assault in Nebraska, as discussed below.
<h3>Third-Degree Assault </h3>
This is the least severe form of assault in Nebraska. It involves intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person. Third-degree assault is a Class I misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
<h3>Second-Degree Assault </h3>
A second-degree assault is a more serious form of assault. It involves intentionally or knowingly causing serious bodily injury to another person or using a dangerous weapon to cause bodily injury. This type of assault is similar to third-degree assault, but the key differences include the use of a deadly weapon to carry out the assault or resulting serious bodily injury. Second-degree assault is a Class IIA felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
<h3>First-Degree Assault </h3>
As you would expect, first-degree assault is the most serious form of assault in Nebraska. It involves intentionally causing serious bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon or attempting to cause such an injury.
The primary difference between first-degree and second-degree assault is the ‘seriousness’ of the assault. Since Nebraska laws do not explicitly define how ‘serious’ an assault should be to be considered first-degree, it is usually up to the courts to decide. First-degree assault is a Class II felony, punishable by up to 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
The penalties for assault increase if the victim is a law enforcement officer, a healthcare professional, or another protected class of individuals. Additionally, if the assault is committed in the context of domestic violence or other aggravating circumstances, the penalties may also be enhanced.
<h2>Why Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer? </h2>
As you’ve read, there is a thin line between assault and self-defense. While Nebraska‘s law defines both, it all narrows down to the specifics of the case. That’s where a criminal defense lawyer comes in.
Some benefits of hiring a criminal defense lawyer include the following:
Knowledge of Nebraska’s legal system: Criminal defense lawyers have extensive knowledge of the legal system and the criminal justice process in Nebraska. They understand the laws and procedures that govern criminal cases, and how to navigate the system to achieve the best possible outcome for their clients.
Protection of your rights: A skilled criminal defense lawyer can protect your legal rights at every stage of the criminal justice process, from the initial arrest to the final verdict.
Strategic planning: Criminal defense cases require significant planning, given that these laws are complicated. A seasoned attorney can help develop a strategic defense plan tailored to your specific case. They will analyze the evidence against you, identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and develop a strategy to defend your rights.
Negotiation skills: Many criminal cases, including those involving assault, are resolved by negotiating with prosecutors. For this reason, a skilled defense attorney can negotiate on your behalf to secure a favorable plea deal or reduced charges. They can also negotiate alternative sentencing options, such as probation or community service rather than jail time.
Expertise in trial advocacy: Suppose your case goes to trial. If so, a criminal defense lawyer can represent you in court and use their trial advocacy skills to fight for your rights and defend your case. They can present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and persuade the jury to consider your interests.
Emotional support: Facing criminal charges is stressful. A criminal defense lawyer can provide the emotional support you need to navigate the legal process with confidence and peace of mind.
<h2>What Should I Look for In a Nebraska Criminal Defense Lawyer? </h2>
Now that you understand the importance of hiring a criminal defense lawyer if you or a loved one has been charged with assault or any other crime, knowing what to look for in such an attorney is equally important. Here are some of the key factors to consider:
You need a criminal defense lawyer with proven experience representing clients in similar cases. Such an attorney will be familiar with the legal issues involved and know how to develop an effective defense strategy.
Keep in mind that there is a narrow gap between assault and self-defense. If you hire an inexperienced attorney, you risk losing the case and possibly facing criminal charges, hefty fines, and jail time.
Given that criminal defense is a complex area of law, you need a lawyer specializing in this particular practice area. Such an attorney will have the knowledge and experience to fight for your best interests, and importantly, will have the confidence to do so.
Check the lawyer’s reputation in the legal community, including reviews and testimonials from former clients. For example, Berry Law has over 1,000 positive reviews on Google alone.
Effective communication between you and your lawyer is essential. You need an attorney who keeps you informed throughout the legal process.
You want a lawyer with the time and resources to devote to your case and who can be reached within a reasonable timeframe when you have important questions or concerns. That explains why at Berry Law, we are always available 24/7 to pick up your calls and respond to your questions.
<h2>Why You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney From Berry Law </h2>
Nebraska is home to many criminal defense law firms and attorneys. But they are not built equal. Some are more equipped to handle complex cases than others.
And when it comes to choosing the right criminal defense law firm or attorney to represent you, the stakes are high.
Fortunately, Berry Law is here to help.
At Berry Law, we have been offering criminal defense services since 1965. Founded by legendary attorney John Stevens Berry, Sr, our law firm handles federal cases nationwide and State cases in Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Illinois.
No matter the complexity of your case, you can count on us if you are looking for an experienced, committed, and competent attorney to defend your case and get you a favorable outcome.
Because we are available for you every day of the week and any time, you can call us at 402-892-5941 to speak with one of our legal representatives or contact us online for a case evaluation.