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How New York Courts Apply the State’s Self-Defense Doctrine

When the government brings criminal charges against a defendant,  that person may have one or more defenses against the crimes charged. In the case of a New York assault crime or assault related charges,  one of the most common defenses is self-defense which in New York is the defense of justification.  Self defense may also apply to many Murder or Manslaughter charges.

In New York, self-defense is a defense. In New York if a defense is raised the prosecutor has the obligation to disprove that defense beyond a reasonable doubt.  Justification, or self-defense is a type of defense in which a defendant claims he committed the acts that would otherwise constitute the offense, but he should not be found in violation of the statute for some other reason. In the case of self-defense, the defendant claims he committed the charged acts for a justifiable reason – specifically, that he was justified in defending himself or a third person.

The defense of self-defense is discussed in Article 35 of the New York Laws. For example, under section 35.10, the use of force upon someone else which might otherwise make out a crime or offense is justifiable and not criminal if the person uses “physical force upon another person in self-defense or defense of a third person.”

Of course, there are a few additional rules to the New York self-defense statute:

  • Someone cannot claim self-defense if they started the fight, unless the person who started the fight withdrew from the fight and the other person persists in the attack;
  • Someone cannot claim self-defense if they provoked the other person into attacking them with the intent to harm the other person;

The law also imposes a further restriction on the use of deadly force. In New York, deadly force cannot be used by another, even when acting in self-defense, unless:

  • The person using deadly force reasonably believes that the other person is committing or attempting to commit a rape, kidnapping, robbery, or forcible sex act; or
  • The person using deadly force reasonably believes that the other person is about to use deadly force on them.

Regarding the latter, a person cannot use deadly force, even in the face of deadly force, if they know that they can safely retreat. However, because New York has a version of the “Stand Your Ground Law,” or the “Castle Doctrine” a person is under no duty to retreat if they are in their own home.

New York also recognizes defense-of-others and defense-of-property. Generally, someone is able to use the same type of force to defend another as they would be able to defend themselves. When it comes to defending property, typically, the use of deadly force is not permitted unless it is used against someone who is committing or attempting to commit arson or burglary.

Have You Been Arrested After Defending Yourself or Your Property?

Self-defense is a complex defense in New York, issues may arise about whether the accused was reasonable in his or her belief that force or deadly physical force was about to be used against them.  It is best to have a lawyer familiar with self-defense cases.

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York violent crime after defending yourself, another person, or your property, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients who face all types of crimes, including New York assault cases. We pride ourselves in providing exceptional representation to each of our clients, regardless of the allegations they face. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 877-377-8666.

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