When properly raised in an assault case or a homicide case, the District Attorney must disprove a defendant’s claim of “self-defense” beyond a reasonable doubt. The job of your self-defense lawyer in New York City is to prove that your use of force was justified.
Jurors get self-defense. It’s a powerful claim. They understand that the use of force is justified under proper circumstances. They can relate to defendants who reasonably use force to defend themselves. Jurors are not afraid to hold the District Attorney to the burden of disproving self-defense.
Also known as “justification”, the law of self-defense is complicated by twists and turns concerning the proportionality of force used to defend oneself, “provocation”, “initial aggressor”, “withdrawal”, “combat by agreement”, and “the duty to retreat”.
Self-defense distinguishes between the use of “physical force” and “deadly physical force”. Deadly physical force is “physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury”. The use of deadly physical force is justified under fewer scenarios than the use of regular physical force.
Self-Defense Involving “Physical Force”
A person may . . . use [non-deadly] physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person, unless:
- The latter’s conduct was provoked by the actor with intent to cause physical injury to another person; or
- The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case the use of physical force is nevertheless justifiable if the actor has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force; or
- The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreementnot specifically authorized by law.