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When is a claim of self-defense possible after an arrest?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The law in Hawaii generally prohibits interpersonal violence. Individuals should not make physical contact with other people with the intent to injure them. Anyone who does cause injury to another party during an altercation could potentially face arrest and prosecution under current state statutes.

Violent criminal charges tend to carry relatively harsh penalties. A record showing that someone has harmed another person can limit their opportunities for employment, education and housing in the future. However, sometimes people have a reasonable justification for using physical force.

Yet, fairly frequently, people respond to assault charges by asserting that they acted in self-defense. When can someone accused of a violent offense in Hawaii mount an affirmative defense based on claims that they acted for their own protection?

When they did not instigate the situation

Whether or not someone instigated a situation can have a direct bearing on their eligibility for a self-defense claim. People cannot assert that they acted in self-defense if they initiated or escalated the conflict. If someone initiates physical contact by grabbing or slapping another person, they typically cannot claim that they acted in self-defense if the altercation worsens. Generally, the other person needs to have initiated physical contact or made a credible threat for an individual to claim they acted in self-defense.

When the degree of sources appropriate

Someone claiming to have acted in self-defense in Hawaii generally needs to establish that the degree of force was appropriate. Another reasonable adult should agree that the person had reason to fear for their safety and that the amount of force used was reasonable given the threat. Responding to a kick to the shins with lethal force would not be reasonable in most cases, for example. People can only use lethal force to defend themselves against specific crimes, including sexual violence, kidnapping or homicide. Otherwise, the person engaging in self-defense must make a judgment about the degree of force that they utilize.

Those claiming they acted in self-defense often need to present a very compelling narrative during their criminal trial. The circumstances leading up to someone’s arrest directly influence their eligibility for a self-defense claim. Seeking legal guidance to learn more about Hawaii law and the right to self-defense may benefit those facing assault allegations or other violent criminal charges.