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When may someone act in self-defense?

There are times when a person in Spokane who is being threatened with harm needs to act in self-defense. While state law varies, in general self-defense can be defined as the lawful use of physical force that counteracts a violent act at a sufficient level in order to keep from being harmed. This general definition does raise some questions, however.

First of all, in order to claim self-defense the threat against a person must be imminent. This means that the person must be put in an immediate fear of being physically injured or killed. The threat can be spoken, but it still must be cause someone to believe there will be an imminent physical injury or fatality. Also, self-defense is only lawful for as long as the threat is present. It the threat ends, self-defense cannot be used.

Also, to claim self-defense the threat of physical injury or fatality must be that in which a "reasonable person" in the same circumstances would feel they are under an immediate threat of being physically injured or killed. What is reasonable can be fluid and can be interpreted in different ways

In addition, to claim self-defense, the acts of defense used can only be what is necessary to stop the threat. For example, if a person is being threatened with deadly force, they may respond with deadly force. However, if the threat is only minor, the use of deadly force would not be proportional to the threat and would not be a lawful act of self-defense.

This is only a brief overview of self-defense, and is not intended to be legal advice. It is always a nuanced situation when a judge must determine whether a person who used self-defense did so lawfully, or whether their self-defense was an unjustified weapons crime. If it is unjustified a person could face criminal penalties. Therefore, those who are facing criminal charges of a violent crime such as assault, but believe they acted in self-defense may want to work with a criminal defense attorney to develop a strong case.

Source:  , "Self-Defense Overview," accessed March 12, 2018

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