People get into fights with each other all the time, and it's not unusual for some of these fights to land one or all parties in jail for assault. Although pleading self-defense is a common strategy many defendants use to avoid a conviction, it isn't the only one available. Here are two other defenses you can use that may help you beat an assault charge and its associated consequences.
Defense of Another Person or Other People
In addition to defending yourself, you have the right to protect others from harm by perpetrators. If one person is about attack (or in the process of attacking) someone else, you can use force to stop the aggressor. For instance, a New York teen was charged with manslaughter after choking his mother's boyfriend to death. However, the grand jury declined to indict him because he was protecting his mother from being abused by the victim.
Although that is a somewhat extreme example, it does illustrate how you may be able to get the assault charges against you dropped if you can adequately prove you were protecting someone else from harm.
It's important to note, though, you must show there was a reasonable expectation of danger to the individual you are protecting. For instance, if the perpetrator verbally threatens to hit the victim but doesn't make any effort to follow through on his or her words, you may be found guilty of assault if you just start wailing on the person because there was no apparent immediate danger to the victim.
To Prevent Damage To or Theft of Property
Another way you can defend against assault charges is to show you were trying to prevent the person from damaging or stealing your property. This defense is not as clear cut as defending other people, because it's typically only applicable in the same situations as the Castle doctrine that says people can use reasonable force to defend their homes (or themselves while at home) against siege and assault.
However, this varies between states. Some states let people use reasonable force to recover stolen property. For instance, if a pickpocket lifts your wallet, you can use force to retrieve it from the person (e.g. tackle the person to the ground when they run away) as long as it was taken directly from your person. In other states, you can use force to prevent someone from robbing you, even if the individual doesn't intend to harm you physically. In still other states, as noted previously, this defense is only available if you are protecting your home.
It's best to consult with an attorney about which defense is appropriate in your case and what you need to show to avoid being convicted. For more information about these and other case issues, consult with a criminal defense attorney.