Self Defense vs Assault: What’s the Main Difference?
When are you defending yourself and when are you committing assault? There’s a fine legal line that you could be crossing in Arizona. You need to know what your rights are but you should also be aware of the limitations.
Stand Your Ground and Self-Defense Laws in Arizona
As per Arizona self-defense laws, you’re not obliged to retreat before threatening or using physical force in a place where you have the legal right to be. The use of physical force is justified for self-defense purposes, as well as in instances when your actions could prevent someone from committing a crime.
Arizona’s self-defense law is A.R.S. 13-404 and the use of deadly physical force is outlined in A.R.S. 13-405.
To take a deeper look at the law, you can use physical force whenever necessary, reasonable and proportional to the scope of the threat. This means you’re not entitled to unlimited physical force, even if you’ve been threatened or you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
The same rule applies to defending others who may be threatened or endangered. You can use physical force whenever another person is incapable of defending themselves and to an extent that’s reasonable and proportional to the threat.
When Is Self-Defense Force Not Permissible
A number of situations give you no right to use physical force as a form of self-defense. Self-defense force isn’t justified whenever:
- You’ve only been verbally threatened
- You’re being arrested by Arizona law enforcement professionals
- An innocent third person is either injured or killed as a result of your action
- Your actions provoked threats or the physical force that somebody else used against you
The use of deadly force is also limited to a very narrow set of circumstances.
You can only use deadly physical force if you fear immediate serious injuries or death. Thus, you cannot use lethal force just because someone pushed or slapped you. In this instance, your response will not be proportional to the scope of the threat.
Lethal force can be used if you’re being threatened with a gun, for example. You should, however, respond in that very same moment. Seeking vengeance later on doesn’t qualify as self-defense, whether you decide to use physical force or deadly physical force.
Assault Cases: Common Defense Scenarios
The self-defense strategy is often used in assault cases. If your attorney can prove that the use of the force was justified, the charges will be dropped and the case will be dismissed altogether.
For this defense scenario to work, however, you’ll have to prove several things. Apart from the ones already mentioned above, you’ll also have to prove that the situation couldn’t have been diffused in any other way and that you didn’t threaten, provoke or attack the other person first.
When the self-defense defense is raised by your attorney, it will be up to the prosecutor to establish the fact that the situation didn’t justify the reasonable use of force against another person.
Your attorney can do several things to increase the credibility of this defense scenario. Witness and expert testimonies are reliable. The same applies to proving that the person you used physical force against has a past history of being violent or getting in confrontations. This aspect is important whenever the defendant has knowledge of this past history and feels threatened because of it.
You can defend yourself against physical violence, theft or other crimes. The state of Arizona gives you the right to stand your ground. Still, legal limits apply and you should always be careful. If someone tries to take the laptop that you’re carrying, you’re justified to slap, push or kick them. You can’t however, pull out a knife because that will be classified as assault.
In the aftermath of such confrontations, you should definitely consult a lawyer. An attorney will judge the situation, tell you whether you’ve broken the law and if so, what your best defense strategy is going to be.
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