If you get caught up in a fight, you're likely not thinking about the legal ramifications at the moment. You're awash in anger and other emotions. However, when the dust settles, you may find yourself facing assault and/or battery charges. Your defense of your actions is key to the legal consequences you could face.

Self-Defense

This is the most common reason that people give for why they assaulted someone. However, to be able to plead self-defense, you must show that you had a legitimate reason to fear that you were going to suffer harm or some type of unlawful force. You must also be able to convince a judge or jury that there was no way you could escape that harm without taking the actions you did.

The amount of force you used must be reasonable based on the force or threat. If someone punches you in the nose and you take out a gun and shoot the gun wielder, that, of course, wouldn't be reasonable. If a 5-feet-tall 100-pound woman slaps her 200-pound, 6-feet-tall husband and he knocks her unconscious, that, too, would likely be considered unreasonable.

Beyond that, you need to show that you did nothing to provoke or escalate the threat or the actions against you. For example, if a person lunges at you and you strike back, that is likely to be considered self-defense. However, if you instigate a fight or help escalate it, while making no effort to remove yourself from the situation, self-defense will be a tough sell in court.

Defense of Other People or Property

If you claim that you assaulted someone because you feared for the safety of another person, the same requirements apply as with self-defense. You must show that you had a valid reason to believe that the person you assaulted was going to harm that other person.

The laws are more complicated and sometimes controversial when it comes to what you can legally do to protect your property. State laws vary. In some states, people can use "reasonable force" if they believe their home is under threat, such as if someone breaks in. If someone steals your wallet or purse from off your body, you may be entitled to use reasonable force to retrieve it.

If you or a loved one has been charged with assault and/or battery, it's essential to seek guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the laws of your state and who can help you present your side of the story effectively to prosecutors and the court.

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