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Is Self-Defense a Good Legal Defense for a Domestic Violence Charge?

Yes, self-defense can be an effective legal defense in the case of a domestic violence charge. In Virginia, you have the legal right to defend yourself if you reasonably believe you are in imminent danger. This right applies to domestic violence situations as well. Virginia’s five domestic or family violence categories are physical violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, economic control, and neglect.

Domestic violence is a traumatizing event that can cause immeasurable harm and insecurity, family dysfunction, and incarceration. However, self-defense is one of the most common defenses used in domestic violence cases in Virginia. Suppose you acted in self-defense during a contentious domestic dispute but are now facing a domestic violence charge. You might be able to obtain a not-guilty verdict in criminal court in Virginia.

What Are the Results of Domestic Violence Charges?

The most common domestic violence in Virginia is assault and battery. This offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can result in up to $2,500 in fines, up to 12 months in jail, and a permanent stain on your record. Aggravating factors or additional charges can result in heftier jail time and larger fines. Other crimes that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence crimes include strangulation, unlawful wounding, malicious wounding, and abduction. These are felony offenses with much more serious penalties.

Defending Yourself Against the Charges

Even if you acted in self-defense, you might face domestic violence charges. Challenging the Commonwealth’s evidence against you in a domestic violence case will mean collecting contradictory evidence or disputing the probable cause for your arrest.

Self-defense can be used if a person:

  • Reasonably believes
  • They are in immediate danger of someone else who is
  • Threatening unlawful force, serious bodily harm, or death, and
  • Uses a reasonable amount of force in relation to that threatened against them.

Unless these elements are met, self-defense cannot be used as a defense in your case.

Virginia law acknowledges two types of self-defense: justified self-defense and excusable self-defense. Justified self-defense takes place when a person acts in their own defense and has no fault in provoking the attack. Excusable self-defense occurs when a person acts in self-defense, and plays some part in the original altercation, but retreats or abandons the attack before they used deadly force to protect themselves.

In Virginia, you are only allowed to use force in proportion to the force directed against you. It also states that you may never use force in retaliation; otherwise, you are equal to the aggressor.

Proving that you responded rationally to, rather than instigated, a violent domestic encounter will largely depend on the evidence you and your lawyer can submit to the court. Injuries such as bruises or abrasions are common during domestic violence. If you can produce medical or personal records that indicate the injuries you suffered were the direct result of domestic violence, this may help prove that you acted in self-defense.

Contact a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney Today

The experienced criminal defense attorneys of Shannon & Associates, P.C. in Hampton Roads, Virginia, understand the problematic nature of domestic violence charges, as well as the potentially dire consequences associated with them. Our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers will fight for a fair outcome in the event that you are wrongfully charged with domestic violence.

Proving self-defense in a domestic violence case is not always straightforward and can often fall into “you said, they said” territory. With attorneys from Shannon & Associates, P.C. on your side, you will receive the benefit of their valuable experience and honest guidance every step of the way.

Contact us at (757) 228-5529 for an initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys today.

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