It is a common belief that if you injure someone during the course of defending yourself that you are safe from prosecution. In reality, this is not the case. There is a fine line between self defense and assault and knowing where that line is could safe you a large fine and some serious jail time.
This fine line is called excessive force. During the course of defending yourself you cannot use force greater than what it takes to stop the attack. Where this line is drawn depends greatly on what state you are in, the type of attack, the victim and the attacker. There are so many variables that it often becomes hard to define what is self defense and what is a counter attack.
A safe general guideline would be only do what it takes to stop the attacker and get away from them. If you are at a nightclub and someone hits you, it is safest to walk away from the incident as opposed to hitting the person back. If the person follows you and continues to attack you, it then makes it necessary to hit back in order to stop the attacker. Often people think in this situation that if they are hit first and retaliate, they will legally be off the hook. Not so, at the very least you will both be charged with disorderly conduct.
The use of weapons is another very touchy matter. Again, you cannot use more force than what it takes to stop the attack, and the use of any deadly weapon is a crime unless you feel that your life is in imminent danger, and can prove that you thought beyond doubt that your life was in danger.
A woman is attacked by a man as she is walking down the street, in this case the woman may have reason to believe her life is in danger and the use of a weapon becomes more acceptable. Where a woman may be greatly overpowered by the size and strength of the man, the use of a weapon may be her only alternative to stop the attack. In the same situation, if she is attacked by a woman who does not have a weapon, and she uses a weapon, this becomes excessive force. In all probability the woman could have stopped the attack without the use of a weapon.
If someone is breaking into your home while you are in it, the use of a weapon becomes even more acceptable. The key is that it is reasonable to suspect that your life is in imminent danger if someone is breaking into your home in the middle of the night, or at anytime you are in occupancy.
If you drive up to your house and see someone breaking into your home, then the use of a weapon or any type of attack may land you in jail. In this instance, you can simply drive away and call police, because your person is not in danger, only your property.
If you follow the guideline of only using as much force as needed to stop an attack, you will not find yourself in trouble for defending yourself.
Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.