Virginia Self-Defense Laws: When Protection Becomes a Legal Defense

The law generally requires people to keep their hands to themselves. However, there are some circumstances where it is acceptable to use physical force against a person. If you’ve been charged with a violent crime, and you weren’t the aggressor in the situation, you may be entitled to assert that you acted in self-defense. If your argument is successful, then the court is likely to drop your charges. In this article, we discuss self-defense laws in Virginia.

What is Legal Self-Defense?

The following elements apply to self-defense in the state of Virginia:

Reasonable belief in the need for force: A person asserting self-defense first must demonstrate that he or she had a reasonable belief that the use of force was justified. To determine whether this belief is reasonable, the courts apply what is called the reasonable person standard. In other words, the court considers what a reasonable person would have perceived under similar circumstances. If the court finds a person’s belief in the need to use force unreasonable, then a self-defense claim will fail.

Imminent threat of attack: An attack must be imminent to justify the use of self-defense. In other words, the words or actions from the other party at the time of the incident must have created the impression that an attack was imminent. However, self-defense is only justifiable while a threat is ongoing. 

Deadly force is only permitted under certain circumstances: Deadly force is only justifiable as self-defense if the other party presents a threat of great bodily injury or death. 

The use of force must be reasonable: Finally, related to the above point, to assert a self-defense claim, the use of force by the defendant must have been reasonable. Specifically, a person is only entitled to use the amount of force needed to thwart the attack. 

Different Types of Self-Defense in Virginia

Self-defense in Virginia can be placed into two broad categories: (1) justifiable self-defense and (2) excusable self-defense. 

Justifiable self-defense: For a defendant’s actions to be considered justifiable self-defense (without fault), he or she cannot have provoked the initial attack and cannot have used excessive force during the incident.

Excusable self-defense: If an accused party was the aggressor in an incident or provoked the attack by the other party, then his or her actions may be considered excusable self-defense (with fault). However, the person must prove that he or she abandoned the attack or retreated and informed the attacker of his or her refusal to fight. In addition, the accused party must have used reasonable force during the incident. 

Contact a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges of any kind in the state of Virginia, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. At Walker Jones, PC, our knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorneys understand the serious consequences of a criminal conviction. Therefore, when you come to us for help with your case, we will mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. Please contact us as soon as possible to arrange a consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. 

Posted in: Criminal Defense, Domestic Violence