Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
If you have lived with a significant other, you know that arguments can begin over the smallest little things. Last year, a 50-year-old woman was charged with a felony assault after she stabbed her 61-year-old boyfriend with a pen because he ate all the salsa.1 Another woman stabbed her boyfriend in a fight over the air conditioning in their hotel room.2
So, if this happens to you, could you fight back? What happens if you’re accused of domestic violence but you were only defending yourself? Is self-defense a valid defense to domestic violence charges?
Self-Defense in California
In California, if you are accused of a violent crime such as domestic violence, you cannot be convicted if it can be proven that you were acting to protect yourself. However, the defense to the charge is somewhat complicated. To successfully claim self-defense, your lawyer must show:
- It was reasonable for you to believe that you were in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury;
- It was reasonable for you to believe that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND
- You used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.3
“Reasonable belief” does not refer to your reasonable belief, but rather what a reasonable person in your position would have believed. This means the jury is asked to determine whether it was reasonable for any person in your position to act the same way.
It must also be reasonable for you to have believed a threat was imminent. If your spouse yells, “I am going to kill you one of these days!” the threat is not imminent. If your spouse comes at you to stab you with a pen because you ate all the salsa, the threat is imminent, and you are entitled to defend yourself, so long as you do not use more force than necessary.
In California, self-defense is a “stand-your-ground” rule, which means your defense attorney does not have to show that you could have fled from the danger instead of fighting back.
The Difficulty with Self Defense in Domestic Violence Cases
Self-defense can be a tricky defense in criminal cases. First, it is an affirmative defense, which means that the burden is on you and your lawyer to prove self-defense. Raising a defense of self-defense does not mean that the prosecution must also prove that you were not defending yourself.
Second, those charged with domestic violence face the reality that a jury may be predisposed to believe that you could not have been defending yourself. After all, you are the one charged, not your spouse, so it is natural for jury members to think of you as the bad person in this case. This is especially true if you appear to be the physically stronger person in the relationship.
That is why hiring an experienced domestic violence attorney is critical if you are facing domestic violence charges as a result of defending yourself. Your attorney will know how to provide evidence and demonstrate how your actions were only a reaction to the imminent threat of harm you were facing, and to convince a jury that despite appearances, you were the actual victim in this case.
Contact the Domestic Violence Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Right Away
Facing a domestic violence charge is difficult, especially when you were only acting in self-defense. Having an experienced attorney at your side can be crucial in convincing the judge or jury that you only acted out of necessity to defend yourself. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled team of attorneys has been successfully defending clients in domestic violence cases for over 40 years. We know how to demonstrate the key facts in your case, and to show the jury that a reasonable person in your position would have done the same.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.
1.Associated Press, “Woman charged with stabbing boyfriend after salsa argument,” WITN News, March 31, 2015, available at http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/Woman-charged-with-stabbing-boyfriend-after-salsa-argument-298185431.html href="#ref1">↩
2. Alex Zdan, “Trenton woman stabs boyfriend during fight over air conditioning,” The Times of Trenton, June 1, 2011, available at http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2011/06/trenton_woman_stabs_boyfriend.html. href="#ref2">↩
3.See CALCRIM 3470 – Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide). href="#ref3">↩