Acts of interpersonal aggression are against the law in Missouri. The details of the situation, including the consequences for the other party, will largely determine what criminal consequences someone may face if convicted of this kind of wrongdoing. If an incident results in someone’s serious injury, the state may pursue assault or even attempted homicide charges. If the other party ends up dying, someone could face homicide charges. The penalties could include large fines, probation and incarceration if someone gets convicted in court.
Those accused of acts of interpersonal violence may firmly believe that they did not break the law because they know they acted in self-defense. Is it possible to defend against violent criminal charges by claiming that one acted in self-defense?
Yes, Missouri protects the right to defend oneself
There are laws in Missouri clarifying that an individual has the right to use physical force to defend themselves, their property and even other people from an imminent threat of violence or illegal activity. If someone reasonably believes that their life is in danger, they may not even have an obligation to try to leave the situation or retreat before using physical force to defend themselves.
Someone raising a claim of self-defense in response to assault, attempted homicide or homicide charges will typically need evidence affirming their claim that they had a reason to fear for their safety and that they did not instigate the situation. Claims of self-defense are usually only possible if someone was not the one who initiated the confrontation or physical contact with the other party.
Elements including someone’s prior relationship with the other party and their personal criminal record can influence whether or not the state accepts their claim that they acted in self-defense, not in an attempt to harm someone else. Witness statements, camera footage and possibly even prior communications between the parties involved could all help build a claim of self-defense as part of someone’s broader defense strategy when facing violent criminal charges.
Even if self-defense claims are not an option, there may still be other means by which someone can avoid a criminal conviction when accused of inappropriately aggressive behavior. Reviewing the evidence that Missouri state prosecutors have collected can help someone accused of a violent crime start evaluating their options for the strongest possible criminal defense strategy.