The trial defense of justification can potentially carry many risks, and the decision whether to raise the defense of justification in response to criminal charges is one that should be made only after careful consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.  For example, a defendant charged with the crime of murder who claims that his actions were justified thereby admits that his actions caused the death of another, but maintains his actions were lawful and justified under the circumstances. 

The legal use of self-defense, or justification, is generally more limited than most people believe. Under New York law there are certain limited situations in which a person may use physical force to defend himself or another.  The situations in which a person may lawfully use deadly physical force are even more limited and more rare.  In addition, even if you believe you have reasonably and lawfully invoked your right to act in self-defense, you may yet find yourself charged with a crime.  If you believe that you lawfully acted in self-defense and yet find yourself charged with a crime, contact Epstein & Conroy, P.C., today to discuss your rights and the possibility of raising a claim of self-defense.

What is Self-Defense Under New York Law?

Justification, or self-defense, is a defense that a defendant may claim in response to certain criminal charges.  Under New York law, and with certain exceptions, generally “[a] person may . . . use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonable believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person.”

The situations in which a person may lawfully use “deadly physical force” upon another person are even more rare and more limited.  If you are charged with murder and believe that you were justified in your use of deadly physical force, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

What Does it Mean to Act “Reasonably?”

Whether a person’s belief in the need to use physical or deadly physical force is “reasonable” can be a tricky factual and legal issue.  It is typically an issue for trial and depends upon many factors.  Whether a defendant acted “reasonably” is generally determined by examining all of the circumstances facing the defendant at the time of the incident and determining whether a reasonable person would have believed that the use of force was necessary in the situation.

Stated in another way, the issue is whether a reasonable person would have acted in the same or similar manner given the facts and circumstances.

In addition, the use of physical force must generally be reasonable in proportion to the threat, and must not go too far in response to the threat.    

When is Self-Defense Not Permitted?

As a legal defense, among other situations, self-defense is generally not justified where:

  • Excessive or unreasonable force is used in response to the attack;
  • Lawful force is being used against you (for example, you are being arrested); or
  • You were the one to start or initiate the violence.

Your ability to use self-defense can be limited in certain other situations as well. Contact a Brooklyn homicide lawyer at Epstein & Conroy, P.C. today to discuss the specifics of your case.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Charged With a Crime?

Being charged with any crime can have serious and lasting consequences for you and your family. Being charged with murder can result in significant and even lifetime imprisonment. You have rights and protections under the federal and state constitutions.

After an arrest, you may have official charges brought against you. This is the government making a formal notice that it intends to prosecute you with a crime. Now, more than ever, it is important to have an experienced Epstein & Conroy, P.C. lawyer working for you.

How Do I Contact Epstein & Conroy, P.C.?

At Epstein & Conroy, P.C., we believe that the accused should be given all the rights and protections afforded by the Constitution and New York law.  Contact us online or call (718) 852-6763 to discuss whether claiming self-defense is appropriate for you.

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