What is Reasonable Force for Self-Defense?

Defending yourself or others may seem like a reasonable action in response to a threat. Still, you could face a criminal conviction if the prosecution can show that you used unreasonable force.

A skilled trial lawyer could help you avoid a lengthy prison sentence by demonstrating to the prosecution that the force used was necessary to protect you from harm.

Self-Defense Can Turn the Tide of Your Case

Self-defense can apply to various charges, including homicide, mayhem, battery, sexual assault, and recklessly endangering safety. However, if your lawyer can prove to the judge and jury that you acted in self-defense, your charges may be dismissed altogether; you cannot be convicted of a crime if you acted in self-defense or defense of another and the level of force was subjectively and objectively reasonable.

In pursuit of the truth, juries do not have to – but still may – consider whether or not opportunities to escape or avoid bodily harm were exhausted before resorting to self-defense. If you provoked the confrontation, however, juries must evaluate the availability of other options. Self-defense can only be applied in cases where you can demonstrate self-defense was the only reasonable way to avoid injury or death.

How Do I Know if Force Was Reasonable?

Reasonable use of force against another is justified. Some factors that the judge and jury may consider when making this determination include the following:

  • Other options to escape or avoid bodily harm
  • Relative weight/size of the individuals involved
  • Individual knowledge of physical ability
  • Genders of each individual
  • The relative health of the individuals
  • The initial level of force used

If the prosecution can demonstrate that you used more force than necessary to stop the attack, it may be considered excessive force and cannot be used to support a self-defense claim. An experienced trial attorney can determine if self-defense is viable in your criminal case.