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The right to self-defense when you're being attacked

If you're accused of assault or other violent crimes, one of the defenses you can use is the defense of self-defense. It's accepted by most people that if you're being attacked, you have a right to defend yourself. The way you act in defense of yourself may be illegal, but if it's necessary, then the law may not penalize you.

Here's an example. If you're at home when a person breaks in and attacks you, you may try to flee. When you can't get away, you hide. When the person finds you and attempts to injure you, you use the gun you were holding to shoot him or her. At that point, you had attempted to flee, escape and stay away from the attacker, but you had no other option but to attack to protect yourself.

In general, self-defense laws allow you the right to prevent suffering by defending yourself with an equal or sufficient amount of force or violence. This can become complicated, especially if the defense and prosecution has a different idea of what constitutes a sufficient amount of force.

For instance, if you are being kicked by a person in the street, an equal or sufficient amount of force might be to kick that person back, to throw him or her or to punch that person. Would using a gun to shoot that person be equal or sufficient? Each case is different, and some might think that you used too much force and should be penalized for it.

Generally speaking, if you are responding to an immediate threat, you should be able to protect yourself without the fear of criminal consequences. If you are being prosecuted after defending yourself, your attorney can help.

Source: FindLaw, "Self-Defense Overview," accessed April 18, 2017

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