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How to Defend Yourself Against a Charge of Assault

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

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You had mixed feelings when you were charged with assault. On one hand, you know that it’s wrong to commit violence against others, but on the other hand, part of you feels that your reaction was entirely justified. Is it possible to argue your case in court so that the judge sees the situation from your point of view?

5 Possible Defenses Against Assault Charges

Many people are able to get the charges against them reduced or even dropped depending on the circumstances of the crime. For example, you may successfully fight a charge of assault in South Dakota if you are:

  • Using reasonable force to correct a child. Under South Dakota law, a parent, guardian, teacher, or school employee may physically correct a misbehaving child as long as the force used is reasonable and moderate.
  • A driver expelling a passenger. If a passenger in your vehicle was breaking the law or refused to obey safe regulations of passenger conduct, you may physically force him or her from the vehicle as long as the vehicle is at a complete stop and only the force required to remove the passenger is used.
  • Defending yourself (or others). If your actions could be considered self-defense or were made in an effort to protect others, you may argue that your actions were necessary to prevent a crime. You must be able to show that your actions arose out of a reasonable fear that your safety (or others’ safety) was threatened.
  • Defending your property. Courts may allow a person to use reasonable force to protect a home, car, land, or other property from theft or damage. This may range from striking a person who took your cellphone to knocking a burglar unconscious. However, courts may examine whether the force used was necessary or reasonable to prevent the criminal activity.
  • Assault during an official act. This defense is used in cases where a law enforcement officer has used force to restrain a prisoner, deliver or transfer a felon, or while making an arrest. These defenses can only be used when an officer is carrying out a legal duty, and the force used must be considered necessary.

It is important to learn as much as you can about felony assault charges before building your defense. Even if you expect to be found guilty of simple assault, your charge can be increased to a criminal offense for many reasons—extending your prison time considerably. At Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP, we can examine your case and start building your defense immediately. Fill out the contact sheet on this page to get started.


Category: Criminal Defense


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