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What Is Self-Defense in Criminal Law?

Self-defense in criminal law recognizes an individual’s right to counter threats to themselves or others. This permits the use of force, but it must be proportionate and used only to neutralize the immediate danger. 

What is an affirmative defense in criminal law? An affirmative defense is a strategy where a defendant acknowledges committing the act but offers a justification that might exempt them from blame or reduce their liability. Self-defense is a subtype of this; it’s when a defendant argues that their actions, even if harmful, were necessary to protect themselves or others from an immediate threat. Note that while all claims of self-defense are affirmative defenses, not all affirmative defenses are claims of self-defense.

When seeking a criminal defense attorney in South Carolina to represent you in a self-defense case, here are some important factors to keep in mind:

Imminence of Threat

At the heart of your self-defense claim is the notion of an imminent threat. For you to have rightfully asserted self-defense, you must demonstrate that there was an immediate danger to yourself or someone else. 

In the past, threats were usually direct, but in this digital age, you might also face threats online, like alarming online messages. However, you need to distinguish between real threats and mere online rudeness. Harsh words online don’t equate to an imminent threat. For your self-defense claim to stand, there should be a clear risk of physical harm, not just offensive comments.

Duration of Threat

The self-defense principle hinges on responding to an immediate threat. You’re justified in defending yourself only during that threat; acting aggressively afterward can be seen as revenge, not defense. 

Of course, the law does recognize psychological intricacies. Those with a history of abuse might perceive threats differently due to past trauma. For them, even a seemingly insignificant action can cause strong emotions influenced by prior experiences.

Reasonable Belief and Proportionality

In self-defense, the force used should correspond to the threat. For grave threats, strong or even lethal force might be deemed justifiable. However, ‘reasonable’ force is subjective. 

Past trauma, like repeated attacks, can influence one’s perception. Someone with such a history might react more forcefully to perceived threats, recalling past dangers. Their response may seem over-the-top to others, but it feels justified to them due to their past experiences.

Protecting Loved Ones and Strangers

Self-defense isn’t limited to just safeguarding oneself. The legal system recognizes that individuals might take defensive actions when trying to protect not only themselves but also others. This includes family and friends, of course, but the protection can also extend to strangers.

Why would someone defend a stranger? Other factors, in addition to our immediate relationships, can activate our protective instincts. For example, seeing someone in a vulnerable situation, sharing a common experience, or identifying with them due to shared characteristics or identities might compel an individual to step in and defend them.

The Role of Defense Attorneys

The legal landscape surrounding self-defense claims is intricate, filled with nuances and specifics that can be challenging for the average individual to grasp fully. This is where the expertise of a skilled criminal defense lawyer becomes indispensable.

Having an attorney isn’t just about representation–it’s about having someone who knows the ins and outs of the legal system, especially in the realm of self-defense. Such a lawyer understands the subtleties of how to present evidence, argue the immediacy and severity of the threat, and navigate the myriad of legal standards and precedents.

Accused and in need of a self-defense claim? Trust the seasoned attorneys at Strom Law to champion your rights. Our expertise spans a diverse range of cases! 

We also have car insurance dispute lawyers ready to help you understand what happens when a car accident claim exceeds insurance limits, and we can assist you in getting the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more!




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