He hit me first – It was self defense!

by J.D. Garrett on May 26, 2012

One of the excuses we hear most often to the charge of assault and battery is, “He hit me first,” or similarly, “He started it.” Unfortunately, this is not a legal defense to a criminal charge. It may work on the playground or in sibling disputes, but not in a court of law in Virginia. A judge may find that you have engaged in mutual combat – in other words, you and the other party may both be found guilty.

In order to use “self defense” as a defense to assault and battery, or any other criminal charge, you must be able to present evidence to show that you had no other option at that time to stop the other party from a continuing their criminal act on you. Many defendants may initially have a claim of self defense, but once the threat has ended, they then continue the assault on the attacker. Once the attacker has ceased their physical assault, you also have a duty to then stop as well.

In addition, the law allows an individual to use “self help” or “self defense” to repel an attacker so long as it is a reasonable response to the threat. Self defense to an assault and battery charge can be claimed even if you are not defending against being assaulted by another, so long as the physical force used is reasonable. One common example is the defense of property, or the removal of a trespasser. You may use physical force, even deadly force at times, to deal with a trespasser to your home, business or car.

You may also be able to claim self defense when you are trying to stop someone from destroying your personal property. However, the force use must be reasonable under the circumstances. In other words, you may not shoot someone who is destroying your personal property, or use a baseball bat against someone who will not leave your business.

Contact a Virginia Beach attorney for assault and battery if you think you have a claim of self defense. (757) 422-4646.

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