Claiming Self-Defense When Accused of Domestic Violence


Domestic assault is a common charge, and it comes with a huge negative stigma as well as painful criminal consequences if convicted. However, the truly unfortunate reality of a domestic violence charge is that it can be difficult to escape those criminal consequences once arrested. Even if the domestic violence incident was false or your spouse wants to drop the charges, it is up to the prosecutor to choose to pursue it or drop the case. As domestic violence is so widespread and considered so egregious, many prosecutors want to make a point of continuing domestic assault cases and pursuing action against the accused vigorously.

Yet, the truth of the matter stands that even if there was a domestic violence incident where you had to get physical with your spouse, often it can be considered a case of self-defense. Yet, if your spouse has bruises or other injuries, it doesn’t look very good for you. In these cases, you need to have a good attorney at your side to help you prove that you really were just defending yourself from your own spouse’s actions.

When Self-Defense is a Valid Legal Defense

States tend to differ when it comes to using self-defense on anyone from a spouse to an intruder. While in Florida you may be able to use the Stand Your Ground law to use deadly force against an intruder or even a spouse that makes your life feel threatened, it is done a little differently in Minnesota.

Minnesota self-defense laws are governed by the Duty to Retreat. This means that you have a duty to try to flee danger before you can justify the use of deadly force. While this is primarily used when it comes to the use of deadly force on intruders in the name of self-defense, showing that you made the duty to retreat from your violent spouse can actually help your case.

An example of this in a domestic assault case would be if your spouse was in a rage and you locked yourself in another room. If the spouse started battering through the door, you made what should be considered a sufficient enough attempt to retreat, meaning any other action should be considered self-defense. If you have the proof via any likely injuries that occurred when smashing through the door that they aggressively pursued you, even if you used force against them after that, a good lawyer can argue that it is covered under self-defense.

Why Proving Self-Defense is So Difficult

The unfortunate reality is a self-defense legal defense in a domestic assault case is often very difficult to prove, especially in cases where a man claims he is defending himself against a woman. Furthermore, if your spouse ends up with more visible injuries from the act of defending yourself, it looks very bad to a jury.

Furthermore, because many have tried to use self-defense in the past when it did not apply to a domestic violence case, the courts, though they have a duty to examine only the facts, can be mistrustful of this defense. In essence, there are two reasons that a prosecutor can argue which can negate a self-defense claim in a domestic assault case. These include:

  • Lack of Immediate Threat – In domestic assault claims where you fought back, you need to be able to prove that your life was in danger. Some juries may not believe that because your spouse was battering you with their fists that your life was actually in danger. However, if they came at you with a knife, then self-defense is a valid response.
  • Irrational Response – If you had a valid reason for self-defense, such as the above example where a spouse charged you with a knife, most juries will expect a valid response. Perhaps using violence to get your spouse to drop the knife is fine. However, if you threw a punch, the knife was dropped, and you continued to batter them, that reflects true domestic assault and not so much self-defense anymore.

Need Help?

Are you being charged with domestic assault in Minneapolis and need help defending yourself? Then you need to contact us today to talk over your case and the unique defense options available to you with the dedicated professionals at the Speas Law Firm.

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case. Please read our disclaimer.