When a conflict escalates into violence, who is held responsible for the damage caused? While it may be clear-cut in most cases, sometimes the lines become blurred. What happens, for instance, if a person attacks another because they fear if they don’t they themselves will be attacked? Can you claim self-defense if you hit someone first?
Can I Claim Self-Defense If I Hit Someone First?
So, can you claim self-defense if you were the first to use physical violence? The answer is yes. While it might not be the most common of defenses to assault and battery charges, striking a person before they hit you is a valid legal defense.
The reason for this defense is the belief that the accused attacker felt threatened by the person who they struck. If the defendant believed that they were in immediate danger, they might be allowed to protect themselves proactively. This defense, however, relies on the reasonable assumption that physical violence was imminent from the person who was struck first.
The following example is an excellent way to understand the “hit first to protect yourself” defense. Say, for instance, two men are arguing after a car accident. As the two men argue over who was to blame for the crash, one of the men puts up his fists and assumes a fighting stance. The other individual, sensing the danger, punches the man in the combative stance, knocking him out. The man who struck the person who assumed the combative position reasonably believed that he was in danger of violence, and thus acted in self-defense by striking first.
Self-Defense and Aggressors
The previous example highlights an important legal aspect of self-defense: that of the aggressor. According to the law, an “aggressor” is someone who illegally attacks another person. This definition, however, is generally expanded to include those who provoke an altercation, or those who threaten other individuals. Using this definition, the man who put his fists up was the aggressor, and the man who struck him was acting in self-defense.
That’s not to say that the person who uses a self-defense argument is never at fault. Florida courts must also consider whether the person claiming self-defense for striking another person first escalated the confrontation or used unwarranted aggression. If, for example, deadly force is used, the defendant must show they attempted to “withdraw” or defuse the situation before they attacked in self-defense.
To get a better understanding of the legal issues surrounding your case, it is essential that you speak with an experienced and knowledgeable South Florida criminal defense attorney right away.
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Chad Piotrowski has an extensive background in aggressively defending his clients from any and all criminal charges. A former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Chad has the unique ability to anticipate prosecution tactics to help build a solid defense to help reach the best possible outcome for his clients.