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Is assault ever justified in Hawaii?

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Violent Crime Defense

In Hawaii, as in all states, assault is generally considered a criminal act. However, there are specific circumstances under which an act that would normally be classified as assault may be deemed legally defensible. Under Hawaii law, assault is most broadly defined as intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person. 

Most of the time, an assault that doesn’t result in severe bodily harm or death is classified as a third-degree misdemeanor. However, even a “fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent” is classified as a petty misdemeanor. Meaning, that assault per se is not ever lawful, even if it is consented to. However, there are defenses against assault charges that can potentially be employed when someone has engaged in assault for the purposes of self-protection, protection of others and (in very limited circumstances) defense of property. 

Self-defense

One of the most common legal defenses for assault is self-defense. In Hawaii, individuals have the right to protect themselves from harm. With that said, the threat of harm in question must be immediate and not something that might occur in the future. Additionally, the force used in self-defense must be proportionate to the threat at issue. Excessive force is not a legally justifiable response to lesser threats. 

Defense of others

Similar to self-defense, Hawaii law permits the use of reasonable force to protect others from imminent harm. If an individual witnesses another person being attacked, they can legally intervene to stop the assault. The same principles of imminence and reasonableness apply in these situations.

Defense of property

Hawaii law also allows for the use of force in the defense of property. However, this is more limited than self-defense or defense of others. Individuals can use reasonable force to prevent unlawful entry or theft of their property. Deadly force, however, is generally not permissible solely for the protection of property.

While assault is generally illegal in Hawaii, there are several exceptions where the use of force may be legally justified. Therefore, if you have been accused of wrongdoing in this regard, it may be wise to seek personalized feedback about your rights and options.