Claiming Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases

If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime, you face an uphill battle: Even an accusation of an act of domestic violence can be hard to overcome. However, a successful self-defense claim can help you reduce or even eliminate your charge. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you build this defense when relevant.

When Does the Defense Apply?

North Carolina law allows a person to use force against someone else when he reasonably believes it is necessary to protect himself. If you used force against someone to resist an attack, you may be able to bring a claim for self-defense in your domestic violence case.

Self-defense is what the law calls an “affirmative defense,” meaning that it is your burden and responsibility to prove it to a judge. If a judge or jury agrees that you acted in self-defense, you will be excused from criminal liability.

In other words, even if you committed an act of violence against someone, you are proving that you did so for a good reason – to protect yourself. It is like saying, “I did it, but I had a good reason, so I shouldn’t be found guilty.”

How to Raise A Self-Defense Claim

First, there must be some evidence in the record to suggest that you were acting in self-defense. For example, the police report, the victim’s injuries, and your own defensive injuries might indicate you acted in self-defense. You need to prove that you used just enough force to keep away an imminent threat - but not too much force.

Your criminal defense lawyer will make a recommendation as to whether to raise self-defense as an affirmative defense to your charge. If you and your lawyer choose to raise self-defense, you will present evidence at trial.

Self-defense can be an effective defense at trial - if it is successful. However, the court can reject a self-defense plea if it determines that you acted irrationally. 

How A Successful Defense Affects Your Charges

Because self-defense is an affirmative defense, it will result in a full acquittal of the domestic violence charge. In other words, a successful claim of self-defense provides a complete bar to a finding of fault by the court.

If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime, a criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid self-defense claim. If you find yourself in need of assistance, Attorney Jeremy Cotten can help. He has served hundreds of clients through Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties and is ready to meet with you to discuss your case. Give him a call or click over to the main page to speak with a legal assistant 24 hours a day.