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Does Self-Defense Apply in Domestic Violence Cases?

By Timothy Bussey on September 24, 2021

Being accused of committing an act of domestic violence is not a minor legal problem – the repercussions can last a lifetime. Anyone facing a physical attack has the right to defend themselves, but sadly, in some cases, protecting yourself can lead to criminal charges with a domestic violence enhancement, such as assault.

In Colorado, if law enforcement is called out to a domestic incident, they are required to arrest someone. While you may honestly have acted in self-defense, you may find yourself arrested, taken to the police station, booked, and in jail until you post bond – just the start of some grave consequences.

The Challenges: Domestic Violence Charges and You.

You have the right to defend yourself against an attack, but the other party may be untruthful and not admit he or she instigated the incident. The difference between self-defense and an act of domestic violence is the motivation behind the act. Determining the motivations of the parties that led to the charges is critical and requires an experienced criminal defense attorney.

In defending against a domestic violence charge, the accused does not deny that the act occurred but presents evidence and testimony that he or she was in fear of imminent bodily harm and that the response to the threat or action was reasonable. In these cases, emotions are running high. Even if the alleged victim later recants and admits the story was exaggerated or untrue, the prosecutor may not choose to drop the charges – and often won’t, choosing to press forward.

You are then in a position where you must defend yourself in court – and you need a criminal defense lawyer that can present persuasive arguments to a jury. If you acted in self-defense, every legal action must be taken to exonerate you and free you from the burden of criminal charges and the risks to your professional and personal reputation.

Self Defense in Domestic Violence Cases: The Do’s and Don’ts

A person is not legally justified to use physical force if he or she provokes the use of unlawful physical force by the other person or is the initial aggressor.

In a domestic violence case, self-defense is called an “affirmative” defense. The law reads as follows:

“… a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.

(2) Deadly physical force may be used only if a person reasonably believes a lesser degree of force is inadequate and:

(a) The actor has reasonable ground to believe, and does believe, that he or another person is in imminent danger of being killed or of receiving great bodily injury; …”

The Case for the Defense

In some cases, the allegation breaks down to a “he said – she said” situation.  When it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did not act in self-defense it is likely that the charges will be reduced, or in some cases, dismissed, or an acquittal achieved at trial. The outcome of an accusation of committing an act of domestic violence rests, in large part, in the talent, dedication, and professionalism of your defense attorney.

Charged with a DV offense? Contact The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. at (719) 475-2555 for a free consultation.

Posted in: Domestic Violence


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