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When is Self-Defense a Valid Defense for Assault or Manslaughter?

If you are facing assault charges in Rochester or criminal charges for another type of violent crime, it is important to know that you need to build a strong defense in order to beat the charges you are facing. Many defense strategies are extremely specific, and they are tailored to the particular facts of a case. If you are facing charges for assault or manslaughter, you may be wondering whether you can use the affirmative defense of self-defense.

There are specific circumstances under which this affirmative defense may result in the prosecution or the court determining that the physical force you used was justifiable, and thus that the charges against you should be dropped or that you should not be convicted of the offense. We want to provide you with more information about a couple of common charges in which a person might raise the affirmative defense of self-defense, and then explain the ways in which this defense might be applied under New York law.

Common Charges in Which a Person Used Physical Violence Against Another Party

If you are facing assault charges, then New York’s assault law requires the prosecution to show that you intended to cause injury to another person and actually caused that injury, or that you recklessly caused another person’s physical injury, or as a result of criminal negligence you caused physical injury to another person with a deadly weapon. Depending upon the specific facts of the case, a person may also face aggravated assault charges. New York also has different degrees of assault charges depending upon the circumstances.

To be convicted of manslaughter in New York, the prosecution typically must be able to show that you recklessly caused the death of another person or that you intended to cause serious physical injury to another person and you ultimately caused that person’s death. Manslaughter is typically charged when a person causes the death of another person but did not intend to kill another person (in some cases, manslaughter is charged when a person does intend to kill another but was under the influence of an “extreme emotional disturbance,” but we want to focus on the types of manslaughter cases that could give rise to a self-defense defense strategy). 

When is Self-Defense a Valid Defense or Justification?

Under the New York Penal Code, the following are examples of the types of situations in which self-defense may be a successful defense to assault charges (and in some cases to manslaughter charges):

  • As a parent, guardian, teacher, or another person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor, you used physical force—but not deadly force—to the extent you believed it was necessary to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the minor;
  • You were working as a warden or authorized official of a jail, prison, or other correctional institution and used physical force to maintain order and discipline;
  • You were responsible for maintaining order in a common carrier of passengers (such as a railroad car), and you used physical force against a passenger or another party to the extent you reasonably believed it was necessary to maintain order (the use of deadly force in such a scenario is only justifiable if you reasonably believed it was necessary to prevent death or serious physical injury);
  • You believed another person was about to commit suicide or inflict serious injury upon himself or herself, and you used physical force to the extent you reasonably believed it was necessary to prevent those self-harming actions;
  • You were administering treatment as a physician (or acting under a physician’s orders) in very specific circumstances and with consent;
  • You used physical force against another person because you reasonably believed you were in imminent fear of your own serious bodily injury or death;
  • You used physical force against another person because you reasonably believed a third party was at imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death, and you used the physical force to prevent harm to that third person;
  • You used physical force that was reasonably necessary to defend the premises; or
  • You used physical force that was reasonably necessary to prevent larceny of or criminal mischief to property.

Contact a Rochester, NY Criminal Defense Attorney for Assistance

If you are facing charges for a violent crime and you believe you may be able to argue self-defense, it is essential that you get in touch with an experienced Rochester criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. One of the criminal defense attorneys at our firm can evaluate your case and help to build a defense strategy that is tailored to the charges you are facing. Contact King Law today for more information.

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