It isn’t uncommon for someone to be accused of assault, which in Michigan is defined as an attempt to inflict physical harm upon another individual whether actually using an object such as a baseball bat, lamp, or even a hand to strike that person, or intentionally threatening an unlawful act whether you brandish a weapon or do something as seemingly simple as raising a fist. Your first thought, regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty, is to claim you were acting in self-defense – and perhaps you were. But what is the difference between assault and defending yourself?
When you were attempting to protect yourself from harm in the event someone else either used force or violence against you, or used offensive words to threaten you that caused you to feel physical harm was imminent (or in other words, about to occur), it is self-defense.
How does assault differ? Essentially, assault means you had the intent to behave in a manner that intimidated or struck fear in another individual, or intentionally attempted to cause physical injury to that person through threatening behavior. Assault, in some cases, may involve offensive or harmful touching of another individual when the touching is non-consensual, or the person touched does not give permission; this may also be considered attempted battery.
While there are several defense strategies that may be used to fight charges of assault in court, many automatically think they can use the self-defense strategy. The problem lies in the fact that in order to be effective, your defense attorney must be able to clearly demonstrate or establish to the court that you had to use force in order to protect yourself from someone, and that the person who you were allegedly protecting yourself from was about to attack or injure you in some way, or touch you unlawfully. In the majority of cases a self-defense argument may be effective if you were not the one who instigated or started the incident that led to you attempting to defend yourself. It’s understandable for someone to strike another individual who threatens you verbally, comes at you with a gun, knife, or other weapon, or who raises a fist in a way that makes you fear physical injury or harm. In some cases self-defense may also be a plausible defense strategy if you made an effort to walk away and end the situation, regardless of whether you instigated the incident to begin with.
It sounds confusing, and to most people accused of assault it is. In any event, acting in self-defense means you only use the amount of force or threat necessary to eliminate the threat – if someone pushed you in the heat of the moment, you don’t pull out a pistol, knife, or even strike the person who threatened or harmed you in a way that’s even more serious than the original threat. In other words, you don’t defend yourself against a fist punch by causing serious injury or death to the person who punched you by using a pistol, knife, or any weapon. The level of threat posed against you should be met with an equal defense.
It is unfortunate that many people who were truly acting in self-defense are accused and even arrested or charged with assault. Because it is a criminal offense, those found guilty may face various penalties including imprisonment, fines, a criminal record, and more. How serious the punishment is often depends on whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors. You may be charged with simple or aggravated assault, either of which are considered violent crimes in Michigan. We all have the right to defend ourselves against potential injury or death, and against verbal threats that make us fear immediate harm. If you have been accused of assault, it is critical to work with a skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney who will work with you and analyze the details of your case in order to help determine is self-defense is in fact the best defense strategy.