When is it ok to assault another person? That may seem like an easy question to answer – never, right? Well not so fast there Henry. In the State of Washington, it just may be ok to hurt or even kill someone if you are legitimately defending yourself, someone else, or perhaps even your property. This type of aggressive act is called ‘self-defense’ (and can include defense of others or even property).
Of course it is abundantly important to understand when it is – and when it is not – legally justifiable to defend yourself, someone else, or your property against another person. Knowing when you can use force to stop another person from hurting you can make the difference between being charged with (and convicted of) a serious crime, or being acquitted on the grounds of ‘self-defense’. Below are some general principles that are applicable to self defense in Washington State.
One of the biggest limitations to self-defense is that a person’s ‘use of force’ has to be reasonable under the specific circumstances of the person’s situation, and cannot go beyond that which is necessary to thwart the danger. For example, pulling out a gun and shooting someone would probably not be deemed reasonable if that person was rearing back to slap you with an open hand. Such a response would likely be considered unreasonable considering the nature of the threat. In such a scenario, this type of ‘use of force’ would result in the one who pulled out the gun being deemed the primary aggressor and thus he would have no claim to self-defense.
Another situation where self-defense is not a permissible justification for using violence is if a person was a primary aggressor. This is so even if in the person didn’t originally initiate the altercation. This can be seen in the context of a bar or street fight. In that situation, if things die down and peace is made or the fight stops, a person cannot thereafter rile people back up again because – it can be argued – there was a break in time thus vitiating any claim of self-defense. He will be deemed the primary aggressor, and charged with assault.
Finally, being legally entitled to be in the location where the violence occurred is also an important requirement to claim self-defense. For example, if a person is trespassing on someone else’s property and a fight breaks out, he won’t have a claim to self-defense. There is also the concept of ‘stand your ground’. While some states require that a person retreat if he thinks he is about to be harmed, Washington doesn’t mandate retreat. For example, if someone aggressively and maliciously approaches another, he does not have to try to escape first. He can stand his ground and defend himself, his family and/or his home, and the law will not punish him.
If you are cited for a crime in Washington State, it is imperative to hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Attorney. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or charged for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. If you are cited, arrested and/or charged with a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.