What is Massachusetts’ self-defense law?

What is Massachusetts’ self-defense law?

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2022 | Domestic Violence

Have you ever gotten into a dispute with a significant other? If so, then you might know that things can escalate pretty quickly. And if you’re reading this blog post, then your disagreement may have resulted in a physical altercation that led to the police being called and you being arrested.

This is a common scenario for individuals in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. In fact, a conviction for assault and battery can cause a significant amount of harm to you and your future, threatening you with incarceration, job loss, and ongoing housing and employment issues. It may even affect your ability to visit with your child. This is why it’s imperative that you know how to build an aggressive criminal defense that protects your interests.

Can you argue self-defense in your case?

Following an incident of domestic violence, you might be able to protect yourself by arguing that you were merely acting in self-defense. But before admitting to hitting the alleged victim and trying to justify your actions on the grounds of self-defense, you need to carefully assess whether you can properly avail yourself of this defense strategy. To do so, you first have to know what the state’s self-defense laws entail.

Massachusetts self-defense law

Under Massachusetts law, you can act to defend yourself from the illegal use of force. However, you must either be under attack at the time that you fight back, or you have to reasonably believe that you’re about to be attacked. Therefore, you have to believe that your safety is at imminent risk before you can be justified in acting in self-defense.

To legally defend yourself, you also have to use force that is considered reasonable under the circumstances, and you can only use force if you’re unable to avoid physical conflict. In other words, if you can retreat to avoid a physical altercation, then in most circumstances you’re required to do so under the law. Remember, too, that you’re going to struggle to successfully argue self-defense if you were the one who started the fight.

What happens if you argue self-defense?

If you argue self-defense, then the state is going to be tasked with proving that you didn’t act in self-defense. This means that the prosecution is going to have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you didn’t believe that you were being under attack or were under the threat of imminent attack, that you didn’t avail yourself of opportunities to avoid the conflict, or that you used force that was disproportionate to the attack.

Of course, each of these prongs has an element of subjectivity. For example, the appropriate amount of force to use when being attacked may depend on the circumstances at hand. Even the size of the aggressor in light of your own can be a determining factor. That’s why you need to carefully analyze every aspect of your case so that you can frame your argument as persuasively as possible.

Don’t leave your criminal defense in the hands of an inexperienced attorney

Many self-defense cases are close calls. That’s why you need to do everything you can to try to tip the scales in your favor. This includes choosing the criminal defense attorney who will give you the best chance of one-upping the prosecution.