In Virginia, it is against the law to touch someone in a way intended to cause harm. Individuals may face prosecution if they commit acts of interpersonal violence that the state considers assault and battery. Some people accused of assault and battery in Virginia maintain that they are innocent. They may even allege that they acted in self-defense.
If their case goes to trial in criminal court, certain rules established through prior court rulings will determine whether their claim of self-defense holds up under scrutiny or not. Is it possible to avoid an assault and battery conviction when someone acted in self-defense rather than with the intent to harm others?
There are limits to self-defense claims
Although Virginia has assault and battery statutes that clearly make it a crime to attack someone else with the intent of harming them, there are also laws that allow people to defend themselves and others against imminent criminal activity. If someone reasonably believes that another party is about to cause them bodily harm, they have the right to defend themselves using physical force.
However, Virginia limits such defense strategies. Someone’s perception that they are in danger would need to seem reasonable to others. They typically need to scale the degree of force they utilize to reflect the level of risk. A situation in which someone fears a petty theft offense would probably not justify the use of lethal force.
Additionally, the role that each party played in the situation can influence whether or not someone is eligible to raise a claim that they acted in self-defense. If someone made unwanted physical contact with the other party or directly threatened them, they generally cannot claim that they acted in self-defense unless they attempt to retreat from the situation and the other party pursues them.
There is often a lot of uncomfortable gray area in a scenario in which someone accused of assault and battery believes that they acted in self-defense and intends to claim as much in the Virginia criminal courts. Going over this state’s evidence and learning more about the prior court rulings that govern self-defense claims with the assistance of a skilled attorney may benefit those who have been accused of assault and who are eager to defeat those charges in the Virginia courts.