Can self-defense turn into assault?

Self-defense may turn into an assault if the person is not in bodily danger or uses too much force for the situation.

Most Colorado residents do not know exactly what they would do if they were attacked by an assailant. However, TheDenverChannel.com states that 14,403 people in the state were victims of aggravated assault over the course of one year. Many victims may end up fighting back, but that could leave them open to charges of assault themselves if they are not careful.

Perceived threat

Everyone has the right to protect themselves or their family members from bodily harm. That being said, there has to be more than a perceived threat. For example, if a masked man has a gun and is threatening a couple, the couple can use reasonable force to eliminate the physical danger presented by the gun. However, if in the same scenario the masked man had no weapon and was only using verbal threats to intimidate the couple, they may be expected to leave the situation rather than attack the man shouting at them.

A property owner can also use self-defense to protect his or her personal belongings from being destroyed or stolen. In this instance, the protector must use only the force needed to stop the threat to his or her property. Regardless of whether a person is protecting himself, a loved one or personal property, the threat being protected against must be real with the potential for physical harm.

Continued attack

The amount of force used also dictates whether an attack can be considered self-defense or not. For example, if the couple being assaulted by the masked, armed man took his gun away and then continued to beat and chase him, they may be using too much force for the situation. On the other hand, if the couple takes the gun away forcefully and allows the assailant to run away, their attack will likely be warranted under self-defense. In other words, self-defense can quickly turn into aggravated assault if the person continues attacking after the threat has been neutralized.

Even using too much force without a continued attack can be the wrong move. For example, if a masked man is trying to steal a couple's car without threatening their persons, they cannot use deadly force to stop him from taking the car. The force used has to be appropriate in relation to the attack it is trying to stop.

Many people use self-defense in Colorado, but it can be hard to know how much force to use in the situation. If a person is being accused of assault after trying to defend themselves from a serious threat, it may be beneficial to work with an attorney who is familiar with these types of criminal law cases.