Understanding Self-Defense in Simple Terms

Self-defense is a lawful reason for using force to protect oneself. It can be a defense against charges like assault, battery, and even criminal homicide. Most states have laws that define self-defense, but courts can interpret and modify these laws as needed. Know more about best criminal lawyer in bangalore


If someone starts a fight, they generally can’t claim self-defense. There are two exceptions:

  1. If the other person responds with excessive force, the initial attacker can defend themselves.
  2. If the initial attacker withdraws from the fight and the other person continues to attack, the initial attacker can defend themselves.

Excessive Force Exception

In some places, a person can’t respond to a non-deadly attack with deadly force.


Pari and Reya argue, and Pari slaps Reya. Reya grabs a knife to stab Pari. Pari wrestles the knife away and stabs Reya, killing her. In many places, Pari could claim self-defense because Reya’s response was excessive.

Withdrawal Exception

If someone starts a fight but then tries to stop and the other person continues attacking, the first person can defend themselves.


Sona slaps Mary, who starts hitting Sona. Sona runs away but Mary follows and keeps attacking. If Sona defends herself, she might not be held responsible for any harm she causes.


Self-defense can only be used if the threat is immediate. If someone faces a threat of future harm, they should contact the police. Past attacks also don’t justify self-defense. In some states, battered spouses can use force if they face constant threats of harm.


If Sneha threatens Sara with future harm and she shoots him, she can’t claim self-defense because the threat wasn’t immediate. But if a battered wife kills her abusive husband during a moment of fear, she might be able to claim self-defense.


The force used in self-defense must be reasonable. Deadly force can be used if a reasonable person would feel threatened with death or serious injury.


If an attacker pins Taru down and she kills him with a screwdriver, she can claim self-defense because a reasonable person would fear serious harm.

Duty to Retreat

Some states require a person to retreat if possible before using deadly force. Others allow people to stand their ground if they’re not the aggressor. The castle doctrine will enable people to defend their homes without retreating.


If Sue attacks Sandy with a knife, Sandy must try to escape if her state requires it. If not, she can defend herself with a knife.

Reasonable Fear

A person must reasonably believe that self-defense is necessary to avoid harm. If this belief is honest but unreasonable, the charge might be reduced but not eliminated.


If Justin kills a child in fear of being hurt, he can’t claim self-defense because a reasonable person wouldn’t feel threatened. If his fear was based on past abuse, the charge might be reduced.

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