Assault Definition & How It Related to Self-Defense

An act of violence is an act of violence is an act of violence. But is violence always morally wrong? That is something each individual needs to decide. Is violence always illegal? That is something the criminal justice system rules over.

Assault is the act of threatening to hurt someone or attempting to physically assail them but failing; this is a crime. Battery is the act of actually hurting someone with the intent to do so; this is also a crime. But self-defense can include threats, attempts to strike another, or actually hurting another person; this is not a crime. Where is the line drawn?

Defining Self-Defense in Florida Statutes

For self-defense to be just that and not its own form of assault or battery, four requirements must be met during the altercation:

  1. Defender was legitimately threatened with unlawful harm by another.
  2. Attacker’s behavior was convincing enough to cause the defender to reasonably believe they were in danger.
  3. Defender did not attempt to provoke the attacker in any way.
  4. Defender did not have a safe opportunity to flee, retreat, or escape.

If all four of these conditions are met, the defender can use force or violence in return to protect themselves, to an extent. Self-defense claims must be “proportional” to the perceived or real threat. Force can be used to stop the attack and escape, but it cannot be used to exact revenge or inflict harm to the attacker after the threat has been resolved.

For example: John approaches Matt with his fists raised, an angry scowl on his face, and tells him he is going to attack him. Matt pulls a gun while John is still 100 feet away. At this point, if Matt tells John to stop while also attempting to retreat himself, it would constitute acceptable self-defense and not assault with a deadly weapon. If Matt pulls a gun and immediately fires, killing John before he has a chance to stop his attack, Matt could be charged with murder or manslaughter.

Get Defense After Self-Defense

It is difficult for law enforcement and the court system to truly know the circumstances of a violent altercation between two people. For this reason, countless people are arrested and charged each year for assault and battery when they were truly trying to act out of self-defense. If this has happened to you, contact the Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. Our lawyer can hear the details of your charges during a free case evaluation so be sure to call (904) 701-0591 today.