Chances are that you hear the term “self-defense” used a lot in the course of normal conversation and in the media, but what does it really mean and when does it apply? It is important to understand that self-defense is not a get-out-of-jail-free card that justifies any action. Rather, it should only be used as a defense in court after taking unavoidable action to defend yourself or another person.
Elements of Self-Defense: Imminence
There are certain elements of self-defense that must apply in order for the defense to hold up in court. First, the harm that you are defending against just be directed either at you or another person, and it must be imminent. This means that the harm is literally about to happen. For instance, if someone makes a future threat against you or your wife but is not actually about to cause harm to you or your wife at that moment, you are not justified in harming that person as an act of self-defense. Rather, it is expected that you will go to the police to report the threat and get a restraining order or press charges. If you have time to go to the police, or you have an opportunity to avoid escalating the situation, it is expected that you will do so instead of inflicting harm on another. Self-defense may only be used to prevent harm that is happening or certain to happen at that moment.
Elements of Self-Defense: Reasonableness
Another element of self-defense is that the amount of force that you use to defend yourself or someone else, must be seen as proportionate and reasonable as compared to the threat. For instance, if someone is about to punch you, and you shoot them with a gun, the amount of force used is not proportionate to the threat of harm. For this reason, it is unlikely that your self-defense claim will hold up when a jury is tasked with determining whether your reaction was reasonable. On the other hand, if someone pulled a gun out, had their finger on the trigger, and said they were going to shoot you, shooting them in self-defense would likely be seen as a reasonable reaction because it was proportionate to the amount of harm being threatened. Juries understand that it is not always easy to think clearly in the moment, particularly when you are being threatened, and if the threat was posed by a trespasser in your home, this will also affect the outcome. However, it is always wise to try and respond proportionately.
Call Ghanayem & Rayasam Today
If you are facing assault, battery, murder, or manslaughter charges in Georgia because you acted in defense of yourself or a third-party, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Ghanayem & Rayasam will fight so that you do not serve time for doing the right thing. Our lawyers will work to get the charges against you dropped, reduced, or will assert defenses to ensure a not-guilty verdict. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can start working for you. Contact Ghanayem & Rayasam today and schedule a consultation.