Most people do not go into public expecting to get in an altercation with another person. Sometimes people get angry, and confrontations occur. They may have had too much to drink, misunderstood casual conversation, or are seeking a way to release their frustrations.
These kinds of interactions are difficult to assess in the moment when a lot of adrenaline is pumping. Violence may erupt if the person is armed with a gun or knife, and any move you make could lead to an arrest or prosecution. You need a lawyer who knows about self-defense in Minnesota criminal law before these situations occur.
When attacked, you have the right to defend yourself and your family from harm. If you have a reason to believe that a person means to harm you, force can be used to either prevent bodily harm or de-escalate the situation. However, it is understood that you can only use the amount of force necessary to prevent yourself from being harmed, as well as a duty to retreat if possible.
What Is Reasonable Force?
If an unarmed man confronts you in a parking lot and yells at you while being physically abusive, it is not reasonably necessary to shoot him. You can use your fists or a non-lethal form of defense, such as pepper spray or a taser. Using a gun on an unarmed person is not an equalizing method of self-defense. Reasonable force is using exactly the counteraction needed to stop the attack.
Deadly force is lawful if the perceived threat at the time was reasonable. If a person attacks you with a deadly weapon, you will perceive it as a deadly threat. Therefore, the use of deadly force can be a reasonable force. However, having a jury decide that can be scary, which is why you need a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer to argue your case.
The law considers the perspective of the person accused of violence, which is you. However, the jury must consider the circumstances at the time of the incident and determine if your force was proportionate. That is why you need a lawyer who understands the law and can explain reasonable force to the jury. Otherwise, they will be considering the events from the perspective of an outsider that is not facing physical danger.
What Are Your Requirements for Self-Defense?
For your case to be considered self-defense, there are a few pieces of criteria to meet. If all of these things are true, you can reasonably argue that your actions were to protect yourself. Let’s explore these points below.
- There has to be no aggression or provocation on your part. You cannot go to a bar on Saturday night, call someone foul names, and then claim self-defense when you inevitably get into a fight. These cases are more easily proven if there are witnesses to your altercation.
- You have to believe that you were in danger of being harmed. That means if someone starts an argument but never puts their hands on you, it would be difficult for you to prove you had a suspicion you were going to be hurt.
- There must be reasonable grounds for that belief. For instance, if the attacker said they were going to kill you, that would give you reasonable grounds to believe they were telling the truth. It also matters if they were armed at the time of the attack. Having a knife in their hand while coming toward you would lead you to believe you were about to be attacked.
- If you could not de-escalate the situation by retreating, then self-defense may have been your only option. The law says you have a duty to retreat if you are outside the home. Perhaps you could have gotten in your car and left the area, or went outside for some fresh air. If your assailant made it impossible to do any of those things, you could have a valid self-defense case.
Minnesota uses the castle law doctrine. That means that if you are threatened in your own home, you do not have a duty to retreat. Castle law does not give you the right to deadly force if it is not reasonable, but it does mean that you do not have to actively seek to leave the situation if you are home.
Result vs. Intent
If you got into an altercation with someone and they lost their lives as a result, your claim of self-defense is crucial. Your attorney must prove to the jury that you did not intend for that person to die. That was the result of your actions, but not the intent. When a person goes through self-defense classes, or is trained as a police officer, they are taught to use enough force to stop the threat and then to stop and do no more.
A skilled attorney who has been through self-defense or police training is a valuable asset in these cases. They can inform the jury on aspects of the law the prosecutor would rather they did not know. They will also be able to bring in the testimony of expert witnesses who can attest that your actions were justified.
Burden of Proof
You and your defense attorney have to meet the requirements of presenting evidence to support your claim of self-defense. It is then up to the State prosecutor to meet the burden of proof. They must present a valid argument that disproves your claim beyond a reasonable doubt. Since the case is based on your perception of danger at the time, that burden can be hefty.
Your defense attorney does not have to prove you are innocent of everything the prosecutor accuses you of. They have to make the jury see that you are not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is a shred of evidence that the actions you took were to prevent yourself or your loved ones from being injured, or under Castle law you were using your rights to defend yourself against an intruder, the jury will have little choice but to find in your favor.
Speak With CJB Law About Your Self-Defense Case Today!
Self-defense cases are scary. You did nothing wrong, but the State is accusing you of things that could lead to a lengthy jail sentence. Do not sit back and let them throw accusations at you without exercising your right to a fair trial.
If you have been charged with a crime in Minnesota, you should not wait to put your team together to fight for you. If you were in an altercation where you had to defend yourself, and the assailant was injured or killed, you have the right to have an attorney defend your actions. CJB Law is here and ready to help. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.