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Law Firm of Aaron Bortel

Self Defense in Domestic Violence – Is it Possible?


Domestic violence is a real problem in the society and the authorities have been doing their utmost to respond and help victims of this crime. However, there have also been cases wherein a person has been wrongfully charged of domestic violence and paired with a sloppy police work, a prosecutor may be obliged to file charges and may probably wrongfully jail a person for a crime he did not do.

What is domestic abuse and violence?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of aggressive behavior that an intimate partner exerts over the other to gain control and/or power in the relationship. There are many types of domestic abuse but when bodily harm and injury is inflicted on the abused partner, and then it becomes domestic violence. You can learn more about the differences here.  Many women, and men included, are victims of domestic violence and abuse. Some choose to speak out and report but some still suffer in silence.

In cases of domestic violence wherein a defendant pleads he is not guilty instead defends himself by saying it was a self defense, it can be a very uphill battle. Since self-defense is a form of an affirmative defense, it is the burden of the defense lawyer and the defendant to prove that it was indeed a case of self defense and not domestic violence. There have been many cases wherein a defense lawyer unsuccessfully used a self-defense strategy but failed to do so. Juries might also find it difficult to believe it but there is a chance and a possibility of a “not guilty” verdict is possible.

To make a self-defense strategy effective, the defendant, with the help of his legal representation or criminal defense lawyer, have to prove that:

  1. There was an immediate danger towards the defendant and there is a possibility that you can be inflicted with bodily harm and/or injury. For example, if you see the attacker is holding a knife or other potentially harmful weapon charging towards you, then it is considered an immediate threat of danger.
  2. A reasonable person in your situation would believe that using force was necessary to defend yourself against the danger.
  3. The force you used was just enough to suppress the danger and to defend yourself from the said danger. Unnecessary and too much use of force may  be more difficult to defend as a self-defense case.

It is also worth remembering that a domestic abuse case cannot be established when there is no pattern of abuse established. Therefore, if the prosecution fails to prove that there have been other instances wherein an abuse has occurred, then it can be used as further proof that it was indeed a case of self defense and not a domestic abuse case.

For a successful self-defense strategy for a domestic violence case, an expert and experienced lawyer on domestic violence cases as well as the state laws pertaining to the case is very important. An expert lawyer can give you an appropriate advice on the matter and other options that may be available for your specific circumstance.

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About the Author

My name is Aaron Bortel. I practice in the state of California. I handle DUI cases exclusively and have been practicing for over 25 years.