Self-Defense and Defense of Others


Self-defense or the defense of others is a defense to both battery and assault. In many cases, your use of force may have been the result of some type of provocation. The victim may have started the fray by unlawfully touching you.

You are allowed to act in self-defense if you actually believe it is necessary—even if your belief is, in fact, incorrect. Furthermore, when your attorney raises the issue in court, the prosecutor must prove you were not acting in self-defense or the defense of someone else, which may be difficult to do.

If you are facing assault or battery charges and believe you were acting in self-defense, I can help. I have successfully defended assault cases in Placer County for over 25 years. Call me today at (530) 823-5400 to set up a free consultation.

Using this defense

You acted in lawful self-defense or defense of another if:

  1. You reasonably believed that you or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully 1,
  2. You reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger,
  3. You used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

Belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how likely the harm is believed to be. You must have believed there was imminent danger of bodily injury or unlawful touching to yourself or someone else.

You are only entitled to use an amount of force that a reasonable person would believe is necessary in the same situation. If you used more force than was reasonable, you did not act in lawful self-defense or defense of another.

Notable information

When deciding whether your beliefs were reasonable, it is important for the court to consider all the circumstances as they were known to and appeared to you, and to consider what a reasonable person in a similar situation with similar knowledge would have believed. If your beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed.

Your belief that you were threatened may be reasonable even if you relied on information that was not true. However, you must have reasonably believed that the information was true.

If the victim threatened or harmed you or others in the past, the court may consider that information in deciding whether your conduct and beliefs were reasonable. Someone who has been threatened or harmed by a person in the past is justified in acting more quickly or taking greater self-defense measures against that person.

Likewise, if you received a threat from someone else that is reasonably associated with the victim, the court may consider that threat in deciding whether you were justified in acting in self-defense or the defense of another person.

Additionally, you are not required to retreat. You are entitled to stand your ground and defend yourself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of death or bodily injury has passed. This is so even if your safety could have been achieved by retreating.

The prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not act in lawful self-defense or defense of another. If the prosecution cannot meet this burden, they must find you not guilty of assault or battery.

1 The slightest touching can be unlawful if it is done in a rude or angry way. Making contact with another person, including through his or her clothing, is enough. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind.