Breaking Bad: Self-Defense in Washington, D.C. Assault Cases
- 17 Dec
While there is no such thing as a typical D.C. assault, “victims” are rarely bystanders who are randomly assaulted by strangers. No, most clients looking for a Washington, D.C. assault lawyer were 1) involved in a domestic situation, or 2) in a bar or club fight. While a domestic assault, by definition, involves people who already know each other, a bar or club fight usually involves strangers. And often lots of alcohol.
Especially in Washington, D.C., assault lawyers represent clients who went looking for some fun, but found legal trouble instead. Whether in the bars of Adams Morgan or the clubs on K Street, a disagreement or misunderstanding with a fellow reveler often leads to punches thrown and blows landed. Washington Metropolitan Police are summoned, witnesses are questioned, and arrests are made. By the very nature of these incidents, witnesses and participants are generally unreliable historians, and what police are told is rarely the whole story. But because that can be difficult to figure out, the wrong person is often arrested.
Your Washington, D.C. criminal assault lawyer will likely be very familiar with the theory of self-defense. It is the most common defense to assault charges, and probably the most successful. That’s because almost all bar and club fights may start with one person throwing a punch, but end with two or more people getting involved in the fracas. When everyone who saw the fight is intoxicated to some extent or another, determining who struck first is virtually impossible. Police understand this, so sometimes they simply arrest the person who isn’t bleeding. Sometimes that’s right, but not always.
To prove self-defense in a Washington, D.C. assault case, evidence must be presented at trial that the defendant actually believed they were in imminent danger of bodily harm and that belief was reasonable. In addition, the amount of force used by the defendant must also be reasonable. In order to successfully put on self-defense, all of the elements must be met. For instance, if a drunk moron gets in your face and gives you a shove while in line for the bathroom, you probably have the right to push him back, and maybe have the right to punch him. But you don’t have the right to break your bud-light bottle on the table, and stick it in his throat. That’s not reasonable. You may have had a reasonable belief that you were in danger of bodily harm, but you got a little carried away on the response.
The beauty of self-defense is that, if your Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer manages to elicit any testimony that supports the theory, it becomes the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you weren’t acting in self-defense. If the prosecutor fails to do so, the judge must find you not guilty.
Another common defense to Washington, D.C. assault cases, and related to self-defense, is “defense of others.” What this means is that if you have a reasonable belief that someone else is in danger of imminent bodily harm, you have the right to defend them. So if that drunk moron gets in your girlfriend’s face, and you think he’s going to get rough, then you have the right to jump in. The elements of proof are the same for defense of others as they are for self-defense. And again, the burden shifts to the government if any evidence is introduced that suggests your actions were in defense of others.
Bar and club assault cases are the some of the hardest cases for the government to prove. The drunker the witnesses were, the less reliable their testimony is. Your D.C. assault lawyer will exploit this fact, and hopefully create enough reasonable doubt to win your case.