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Can I Use Self-Defense as a Defense in a Domestic Violence Case?


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Anyone who has ever lived with a significant other knows that disagreements can arise, even over the smallest issues. Sometimes, these arguments escalate to the level of domestic violence charges being laid against someone. Physical arguments can quickly get out of control, and when they do, it is not always easy to determine who was at fault. It is not uncommon for one party to allege domestic violence while the other argues that they were acting in self-defense.

When Can You Argue Self-Defense in Domestic Violence Cases?

If you have been accused of domestic violence, you can raise the argument of self-defense if you can show that you acted in a way to protect yourself. Using this defense in domestic violence cases, though, is not always so straightforward. To successfully use this argument, you must prove:

  • You had a reasonable belief that you were in immediate danger of suffering bodily injury,
  • You had a reasonable belief that you needed to use immediate force in order to defend yourself against the danger, and
  • You only used the amount of force that was necessary to defend yourself against the danger

It is important to note that the law and the courts are fairly clear in their definition of what constitutes a reasonable belief and what does not. Reasonable belief does not mean you personally had reason to believe you were in immediate danger. Instead, it means that a reasonable person would have also had reason to believe they were in danger of suffering immediate harm.


In addition to having a reasonable belief that you were in harm’s way, the threat must also be imminent. For example, if your spouse tells you that they are going to kill you ‘one day,’ that is not an imminent threat. On the other hand, if your spouse lunges at you with a knife, that is an imminent threat.


Challenges With Raising the Self-Defense Argument

While it is possible to raise the argument of self-defense, it does come with its own challenges. The first is that self-defense is an affirmative one. This means that you are admitting to committing the act but that you also had a valid reason to do so. You must also prove that you were acting in self-defense, while the prosecution does not have any burden of proof to show that you were not.

The second challenge associated with the self-defense argument is that juries are often predisposed to believing alleged victims of domestic violence. It can be difficult to convince a jury that an alleged offender was defending themselves against a reasonable belief of imminent harm.

Call Our Domestic Violence Lawyer in California for Help With Your Defense

If you have been charged with domestic violence after practicing self-defense, our skilled attorneys can help. At Strongest Defense, our California domestic violence lawyers know how to prove you were acting to protect yourself and will give you the best possible outcome in your case.

Call us now at (805) 477-0070 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.