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What is self-defense?

If you get into a fight with someone, you run the risk of facing assault charges. However, just getting arrested does not mean you are guilty. These are often chaotic situations, and it's hard for the police to decipher exactly what happened on the spot. They may simply arrest everyone involved and decide to sort it out later.

One common defense to assault charges is claiming that you acted in self-defense. What exactly does this mean?

Essentially, it means that you faced a threat of physical violence. Maybe you actually got attacked or maybe the other person threatened you, and you believed they were going to hurt you. You then used force to defend yourself.

This does sound simple, but it's not. For instance, one of the key points is that you can only use a "sufficient level of counteracting force or violence." It has to fit the situation. If someone slaps you and you pull out a gun and shoot them, that's likely excessive force for the situation.

But even that has raised questions. What if you legally carry a gun, and you get jumped by three people? None have a weapon, but they're all bigger than you. Can you feel so afraid for your life that defending yourself with a gun makes sense? Or is it still excessive force?

These types of questions plague criminal cases, and every situation is unique. It is crucial that you understand all of your defense options, especially if you believe you acted in self-defense but you're getting accused of starting the encounter or taking things too far.

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