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When is self-defense justifiable?

On Behalf of The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford |

Under North Carolina law, people can claim self-defense when charged with assaulting someone. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the legal definition of self-defense. Sometimes, people commit assaults and then claim self-defense. Beating someone up because you think they may rob you because the person loiters near an ATM machine would not likely fit a self-defense claim. However, striking a person engaged in strong-arm robbery might.

Self-defense vs. assault

With a self-defense claim, a person admits to using physical violence against another individual as protection against bodily injury or death. The law could allow self-defense claims when someone uses force against another person who intends to kidnap, sexually assault, or otherwise harm someone else. The law commonly requires a person only to use enough force necessary to end the threat.

When a belligerent person starts a fight with another individual and gets “knocked out,” the incident might be an example of acceptable self-defense. Knocking someone down and then repeatedly kicking an unconscious person moves from self-defense to assault. What starts as self-defense could turn into aggravated assault when someone uses excessive force.

Self-defense and reasonable actions

Sometimes, the threat appears imminent. If someone attempts to drag another person into a car, this would be an apparent kidnapping situation. The victim may need to use force to prevent the abduction. Few would argue that a person had reason to fear for his or her safety if a stranger attempted a kidnapping. Assaulting someone who did nothing wrong but “looked suspicious” hardly involves any reasonable suspicions about harm.

Regardless, claims of self-defense could be murky ones. Security camera footage or witness accounts might become necessary to prove the claim.

Assault charges could lead to felony convictions, even among those who acted in self-defense. An attorney may assist a client with proving justifiable self-defense.