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How do I Prove Self Defense in Domestic Violence Cases?

How to Prove Self Defense in a Domestic Violence Case

California Courts have long recognized the theory of self defense, even in domestic violence cases. The law allows people to apply any necessary force to protect yourself from wrongful injury. If your spouse, significant other, or family member attacked you, and you defended yourself – you need to speak with an attorney immediately.  Self defense requires the defendant to prove certain elements to the court.  The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the better your defense will be.  

It is very common for two people who live together to engage in physical altercations. Often, there are no injuries, and the person who gets arrested was simply defending himself.  The police are often under instruction to take one party into custody to diffuse a situation where one party alleges domestic violence.  

Courts have defined self defense as:

1. The defendant reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully;

2. The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and

3. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

Belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how likely the harm is believed to be. The defendant must have believed there was imminent danger of violence to himself. Defendant’s belief must have been reasonable and he must have acted because of that belief. You are only entitled to use the amount of force that a reasonable person would believe is necessary in the same situation. If the defendant used more force than was reasonable, the defendant did not act in lawful self-defense. 

The defendant is justified in taking quicker or harsher action when he or she is aware of threats against the defendant or others, or past violence by the victim. People v. Minifie (1996) 13 Cal.4th 1055, 1065. In California, there is no requirement to retreat. People v. Hughes (1951) 107 Cal.App.2d 487, 494.

When deciding whether the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable, juries are instructed to consider all the circumstances as they were known to the defendant.