When a criminal defense lawyer considers the options a client might have in an assault case, they usually look at a handful of possible claims. Let's look at five potential defenses worth considering.
Unsurprisingly, this is the go-to defense for many cases an assault lawyer will handle. A self-defense claim is usually anchored by a threat of unlawful harm against the defendant or the perception of such a threat. The defendant cannot have provoked an incident, and there was no reasonable way they could retreat from a confrontation.
Notably, escalating behavior tends to undermine an assault case. For example, if two people were trading insults before a fistfight breaking out, it's hard for either of them to say they were engaged in self-defense. Likewise, self-defense claims are limited by what's necessary to contain the situation. A defendant can't continue beating on someone after the threat has been neutralized.
2. Defense of Others
In addition to defending yourself, you do have the right to defend other people. As you may expect, the limitations on this sort of legal defense are similar to self-defense claims.
3. Mutual Consent
This defense's value varies dramatically by jurisdiction, and anyone using it should expect extreme scrutiny from the court. Essentially, the argument is that both sides agreed to fight, and therefore what happened wasn't assault. It's unlikely that all charges will be completely dismissed, but there might be a chance to argue the offense down to a lesser charge. As with self-defense claims, there is always a point where this argument fails to hold water because the conduct went too far.
4. No Harm
A simpler defense is to show that no bodily harm occurred. It might be unpleasant, for example, to have someone punch you on the shoulder. Without real harm, though, it's hard for the state to argue that a full-on assault occurred. Anyone making this defense should be prepared to go through a mountain of medical reports to establish that harm didn't happen.
5. Defense of Property
It's essential to support this defense by proving that personal property was involved and that it's clear that one person owned the property in question. You cannot use violence to settle a dispute over property. Generally, this defense works best when the property is being directly taken, such as during a burglary. Immediate retrieval of property, such as running down a pickpocket, may also be allowed. Once the property is gone, though, seeking out the other party and harming them is likely illegal.
To learn more about which defense works for your case, contact a criminal defense lawyer.