When is it reasonable to respond to a threat with violence?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

You were having a good time with a friend at a party – until you weren’t. Someone you didn’t even know apparently had a little too much to drink, and they got aggressive. Things got heated, they made threats and threw a punch, and you responded by protecting yourself with force.

Are you going to be charged with simple or aggravated assault? Are your actions permitted by law? Here’s what you need to know:

A lot depends on the reasonableness of your response

In general, you have a right to defend yourself from an unlawful attack. Under Section 97-3-15 of Mississippi’s Annotated Code, you have the right to use force (even deadly force) to protect yourself if there is a reasonable risk that you might suffer a serious injury or death at the other party’s hands.

What does “reasonable” mean in that kind of situation? Well, everything has to be considered in context. Consider these two scenarios:

  • You’re a 6’2” man and weigh 250 lbs. The drunk that attacks you is a 5” tall woman who is so drunk she can barely stand up. She yanks a shoe off her foot and swears she will shoot you with it while her friends try to walk her away. That’s hardly likely to pose a reasonable threat to your safety.
  • You’re a 6’2” guy and you’re shoved – hard – by another guy roughly your own size. He’s clearly irate, intoxicated and unreasonable. Your attempts to pacify him just make him angrier. He pulls out a pair of brass knuckles and starts swinging at you, yelling that he’s going to beat you to a pulp. That’s definitely likely to be a threat to your safety.

Obviously, real-life situations aren’t as easy to tell apart, particularly in the heat of the moment. If you’ve been charged with assault for defending yourself, consider all your defense options carefully.