Assault can take different forms, but it typically involves unwanted touching that is harmful or offensive, attempting to injure another using unlawful force, or putting someone else in fear of bodily harm. Various degrees and types of assault are criminal offenses under Washington law. Under RCW 9A.36, charges can range from a Class A felony for first-degree assault to a gross misdemeanor for fourth-degree assault. As a result, although the penalties for an assault conviction range widely, a conviction can cause significant terms of incarceration, among other unwelcome penalties. However, an assault conviction also results in a criminal record of a violent crime, which can be highly detrimental to your personal and professional life.
Fortunately, there are valid defenses to assault in some cases. Self-defense is one of the most commonly used defenses to assault charges. Essentially, by claiming self-defense, you are explaining your actions as necessary, lawful, and justified in light of the situation that led to the charges against you.
Self-Defense in Assault Cases
Self-defense is a valid defense to various criminal charges, including assault, depending on the circumstances. Washington law outlines specific situations in which your use of force against another person may be legal and justifiable. RCW 9A.16.020, states a person can use, attempt to use, or offer to use force against another when:
- That person is about to be injured and you want to prevent or try to prevent an offense against your person, a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in your possession
- You need to detain someone who is unlawfully present on your property, so long as the detention is reasonable and designed to determine why the person is on your property
- You want to prevent a mentally ill or developmentally disabled person from committing an act that is dangerous to any person or enforce necessary restraint that is for the protection or benefit of the person
The law does not require that you suffer injuries to use self-defense as a successful defense to assault charges. As long as you had a reasonable belief that you were about to suffer harm due to another’s actions, you may be able to claim self-defense for using reasonable force against another.
However, if you want to successfully use self-defense as a valid and legal defense to charges of assault, the level of force that you use must be reasonably and not more than is necessary to protect yourself. In other words, you cannot shoot another person who is unarmed on your property and attempting to run away from you and then claim it was justifiable self-defense.
If you do face assault charges, but you are found not guilty by reason of self-defense, you may be able to seek reimbursement of your reasonable costs in defending yourself in the criminal case from the state of Washington. These costs include the loss of your time, legal fees, and any other expenses associated with your defense. If the judge or jury finds by a preponderance of the evidence that your actions were justifiable as self-defense, the judge then will determine the amount of reimbursement that you should receive from the state. However, if the judge finds that you were engaged in criminal conduct substantially related to the event that led to your criminal charges, the judge can deny or reduce the award based on the seriousness of the criminal conduct.
Contact Us for the Defense that You Need
Although self-defense can be a legally valid defense to assault charges, it only applies in specific situations. You can determine whether self-defense is a viable defense to assault charges, as well as explore any other defenses that may exist in your case, with the assistance of the Law Offices of Lance Fryrear.Criminal cases often move quickly, so enlisting the help of a defense attorney right away can be critical to your defense. Call us today at (425) 224-7075 to get started on building the strongest and most effective defense possible to the criminal charges that you or a loved one is facing.