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What can be considered self-defense in a domestic violence case?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Facing domestic violence charges is a worrying situation that can come with dire consequences. But it’s important to know that these accusations can come from complicated relationships and difficult home environments. In many cases, what seems like an act of violence can be an act of self-defense.  

What is an act of self-defense? 

Self-defense is the use of force to protect yourself or others. Under Montana state law, this can mean using physical strength or power to defend against an immediate threat of harm. This can also include the use of deadly force, but only if it is necessary to prevent severe injury or death.  

In situations involving domestic violence, self-defense may apply if you face bodily injury from a partner or family member and using force becomes necessary for your protection. However, several factors and questions can come into play: 

  • Did you reasonably believe you were in danger? If you genuinely thought that you or a loved one was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm, then the use of force can be considered self-defense. However, this belief must also be objectively reasonable based on the circumstances.  
  • Was the use of force proportional to the threat? Self-defense only applies if the force you use matches the threat. Excessive force is typically seen as assault rather than self-defense
  • Was there an immediate threat? A person cannot justify force if there is not an immediate threat. This means a clear and present danger, such as an immediately threatening individual currently on the premises.  

Montana follows a “stand your ground” principle, meaning you do not have to retreat or summon help before using force in self-defense, especially in your own home.  

How do you protect yourself legally in a domestic violence case? 

In short, the law may consider any use of force in self-defense, provided it is an essential actor in protecting yourself or others. However, there is a vast difference between having an effective defense and arguing it before a judge and prosecutors. You do not have to face this alone.