What Is Self Defense in Criminal Law?
If you are wondering what is self defense in criminal law, you should know that there are many different types of defenses against criminal charges. Some of these defenses establish that a person did not commit the acts they were accused of. Others admit that the acts occurred but excuse them based on the circumstances. A claim of self defense is one of those second types of defenses.
A claim of self defense is viable in a criminal case when it involves an act of violence that was necessary to prevent harm. Claims of self defense differ from one jurisdiction to another, with some states placing a heavier burden on a person to avoid conflict before resulting to violence to defend themselves. To learn more about self defense in Minnesota, speak with the attorneys of Gerald Miller right away.
Self Defense in Minnesota
There is a strict standard on the use of force when defending yourself in Minnesota. If a person fails to meet the standard of self defense under Minnesota law, they are not immune to conviction for crimes like assault. To prove self defense, a person must establish:
- That the other party was the aggressor
- That they feared harm at the hands of the aggressor
- That this fear was reasonable
- That they did not provoke the aggressor, and
- That there was no opportunity to escape.
Each of these elements is related to the next, and each element is required in establishing a claim of self defense. For example, this defense is not viable if the accused either provoked the other person or was initially the aggressor in the attack. They must also not only show that they feared suffering an injury, but also that the fear was reasonable. For example, a person that is in a position where they could not possibly be harmed cannot rely on a self defense claim if they attack another person.
The Duty to Retreat
One of the most important elements of self defense is the lack of an opportunity to escape. In fact, it is not enough to merely have a duty to escape. In Minnesota, a person must make every reasonable effort to retreat before resulting to violence. If a person has the ability to retreat but does not do so, they could face criminal charges even if they meet the other elements of self-defense. It is important to remember that there is only a duty to retreat when it is possible to do so safely.
Some states have what is known as a “stand your ground” law. Under this type of law, a person has no duty to retreat before they defend themselves. Minnesota does not recognize this type of law, however.
The state does recognize what is known as the castle doctrine, however. While there is a duty to retreat in most cases, you do not have that duty in your own home. The law allows you to use force—even deadly force—in your own home when threatened, even if you do not attempt to retreat.
A Proportionate Degree of Force
Finally, a claim of self-defense requires a proportionate use of force. In other words, a person may not use more force than necessary to protect themselves or avoid injury. Any disproportionate use of force could result in criminal charges.
Consider the following example. If a person you have not provoked attempts to strike you with your fist and you have no avenue to retreat, you have the right to defend yourself. However, if your life is not in danger the use of deadly force in this situation is not a proportional response. Using more force than necessary can be just as problematic as failing to retreat.
Discuss Your Defense Options with Gerald Miller in Minneapolis
When you ask what is self defense in criminal law, there are numerous factors to consider with a self-defense claim. The appropriate level of force, your ability to retreat, and whether or not you provoked the alleged victim are only some of the factors that a court will consider.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case and advise you if you have a viable claim for self-defense. If you have questions about your defense options, the attorneys of Gerald Miller are ready to provide the answers. Call right away to schedule a free consultation.