There may come a time when you feel your life is truly in danger. Someone may break into your home, a fight may break out at a party, or you could face some other situation in which you must defend yourself or risk losing your life.

In those moments, you may have to make a decision that few people want to make — whether to take a life. If you made that choice, you may face criminal charges. Proving to the court that you had no choice because you were defending yourself may require some assistance since the concept of self-defense may present some challenges.

How does the law define self-defense?

First, you absolutely have the right to defend yourself if you are under attack. You may respond with a sufficient level of force in order to fend off your attacker. However, that’s not the end of the story. When it comes to determining whether you were defending yourself and whether you used the appropriate level of force, the courts will ask numerous questions:

  • Did you provoke the attack?
  • What happens if the threat you thought the other party presented wasn’t real?
  • What was a sufficient level of force under the circumstances?
  • Did your actions go beyond that level?

As you can see, it’s not as cut and dry as Hollywood makes it seem. The answers to these questions could determine whether you may use the self-defense in your case.

Considerations when considering self-defense

Additional issues that you need to cover before using self-defense as a defense strategy in your case include the following:

  • Your fear of harm from the other person must be reasonable. You will need to show that a “reasonable person” would also have felt that his or her life was in danger under the same circumstances.
  • You will need to show the court that your response to the attacker was in proportion to the force threatened or used against you.
  • You will also need to show that the threat against your life was imminent. This means that the threat must be immediate and backed up with a show of force or the physical threat of force.

How you address these issues could make or break your case. You may want to reserve answering these questions and concerns until you obtain experienced representation, however. Anything you say to police or prosecutors may end up as evidence against you. This is a trying time to be sure, but you may want to make sure that you invoke your right to remain silent.

Even though you truly believe that self-defense justified the life you took, officials may still investigate the matter to determine whether you are telling the truth. That may seem like an insult considering what you have been through, but it is the state’s job to be skeptical. For this reason, you may want to consider making use of the legal resources at your disposal to help you through the situation.