When does an act of self-defense lead to assault charges in Arizona?

When does an act of self-defense lead to assault charges in Arizona?

| Mar 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Arizona allows people to act in self-defense and in the defense of others. You even have the right to use physical force to defend your property in some circumstances, or when preventing the commission of certain crimes. These are commonly called “justification” defenses.  Not only can people use physical force, but they can use lethal force without an obligation to retreat first in certain situations that fall under the Stand-Your-Ground law.  This occurs when you are in a place you may legally be and are not engaged in an unlawful act, and is covered by A.R.S. 13-405(B).

With such strong protections for the right of a citizen to defend themselves and others, you might presume that those who claim self-defense won’t wind up charged with a crime. However, even those who only became physically violent to protect themselves could still wind up facing criminal charges like assault. When does self-defense possibly still lead to criminal charges?

Arizona statutes limit self-defense claims

Often, when you strike someone or even use a weapon to protect yourself, the situation is clearly one of self-defense. Other times, the situation is open to interpretation. If you and the other person claim you didn’t start the altercation, officers investigating may have to arrest one or both of you.

If your circumstances fall into several specific scenarios outlined in Arizona law, you will not be able to claim self-defense in court. For example, physical violence often does not constitute self-defense if the other party did not initiate physical harm and instead only spoke aggressively to you.  Another example is when you use deadly physical force without first retreating and were in a place you were not legally permitted to be.

3 more times self-defense can lead to assault charges

There are other situations where what you think is self-defense might instead still be assault in the eyes of the police or state prosecutors. If you initiated the aggressive encounter, even if the other person became more violent and you had to defend yourself, your actions likely don’t constitute self-defense. Instead, you have to make an attempt to retreat before becoming physical with the other party.

Additionally, if what you attempt to defend yourself against is a legal arrest conducted by state or federal authorities, self-defense claims do not apply to any actions you take in that situation.

Claiming self-defense is only one of many possible ways to fight back against assault allegations. You may also be able to challenge the prosecution’s version of events or undermine evidence, like witness testimony. Defending yourself when facing allegations of violent crimes can help you protect your freedom and your future.