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Assault vs. Self-Defense: What’s the Difference?


We all have the right to defend ourselves against harm, and while this right is vital, there are limits placed on what constitutes self-defense. However, when you exceed these limits, you can find yourself facing assault charges. In this blog, we explain the difference between defending yourself and inflicting harm on another person.

What Is Assault?

Assault is the willful attempt to cause harm to someone by inflicting a violent injury. However, when two individuals get into a fight, it can be difficult to determine if one party was preventing the other from causing them harm. Although we are entitled to defend ourselves from harmful threats, your act of self-defense can be misconstrued as a violent assault. In Massachusetts, you have the obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid physical combat before resorting to violent force.

To distinguish self-defense from assault, the key is determining if the force used in the confrontation was reasonable under the given circumstances. If the force you used against the other party was unnecessary, you cannot claim you were defending yourself. If you have to use force, it can only be to prevent harm from befalling you.

Duty to Retreat

When it comes to the threat of harm taking place in your own home, you are not required to retreat and can use force on an intruder or assailant. If you believe your assailant will kill you, you are legally allowed to use deadly force in your home.

There is thin line between assault and self-defense. If you find yourself facing assault charges after a violent encounter, you should immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Proving you were acting in self-defense can be very difficult in a court of law. Collecting the necessary evidence requires resources that an attorney has access to.

At Flanagan & Associates, our legal team is familiar with self-defense cases, and we know the defense strategies that work best to fight against these charges. Our attorney, Dave Flanagan, can help you prove that the force you used was reasonable under the given circumstances. We will gather medical records, witness statements, and surveillance recordings to demonstrate that your use of force was necessary to prevent harm. Let us put our skills and experience to work for you.

Call (781) 332-4344, or contact our Quincy criminal defense attorney to set up your free case consultation today.