New York Self Defense Establishing the Defense of Justification in New York Criminal Cases

When it comes to New York assault cases, or homicides there are a number of  defenses that someone charged with the offense can assert. An affirmative defense is a defense which the person accused of a crime has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence.  A defense, on the other hand must be disproved by the prosecution, beyond a reasonable doubt.  One of the most common defenses in New York aggravated assault cases is that of self-defense or as its called in New York Justification.  Justification is a defense that must be disproved by the prosecution.

In New York, NY Penal Law 35.15 governs self-defense claims. The statute also includes a defense for those acting in the defense of others. Specifically, that statute requires that the actor possess an honest and reasonable belief that they are facing unlawful physical force, or an imminent threat of unlawful physical force.

The statute thus creates two essential elements of a New York self-defense claim. First, the actor was subject to unlawful force, or the actor honestly had a fear that they were about to face unlawful force. However, even if the actor believes this to be the case, the statute also requires that their belief be a “reasonable” one. This introduces an objective element into the claim, essentially asking the judge or jury to determine whether the defendant’s fears were reasonable under the circumstances.

Indeed, a recent New York appellate case affirmed a trial court’s decision to deny the defendant’s request for a self-defense instruction based on the fact that, while the defendant may have himself believed that he was facing an imminent threat of bodily injury, the jury “could not rationally conclude that his reactions were those of a reasonable [person] acting in self-defense.”

In addition, self-defense claims may not be available if the defendant is the initial aggressor or provokes the other person into attacking them with the intent of inflicting harm in retaliation. Even if a defendant is found to have met both of these elements, there is also the requirement that the force used be reasonable. Essentially, this is a proportionality requirement. For example, a defendant may not be reasonable in taking someone to the ground and repeatedly punching them if all they had done was shove the defendant once.

There are also additional requirements when the force used by the defendant is considered to be deadly force. For example, as a general matter, deadly force can only be used when facing an imminent threat of deadly force and the ability to retreat is not an option. Importantly, however, New York does not require an individual to retreat when they are inside their own home.

Have You Been Charged with Aggravated Assault in New York?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New York assault crime, you should immediately reach out to one of the dedicated New York assault defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent clients charged with any felony or misdemeanor offense, including assault and battery offenses. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation with a New York criminal defense attorney.

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