Although we do not regularly like to think about it, there are situations in which an innocent person can be charged with a crime when defending themselves from a serious threat. Suppose you are in public when you are suddenly attacked, but manage to defend yourself and incapacitate the attacker. By the time the authorities show up, they may only see you with the assailant on the ground, or worse. In either of these cases, you defended yourself in your home or out on the street; but you may find that you need to defend yourself in court as well!
Self-Defense In Washington State
Washington State offers broad terms for self-defense in RCW 9A.16.110. The statute's first portion reads:
"(1) No person in the state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting by any reasonable means necessary, himself or herself, his or her family, or his or her real or personal property, or for coming to the aid of another who is in imminent danger of or the victim of assault, robbery, kidnapping, arson, burglary, rape, murder, or any other violent crime as defined in RCW 9.94A.030."
This statute gives the authority for anyone to defend themselves or others in danger of being the victim of a violent crime, through "reasonable means." Reasonable means is a broad term that is applicable to whatever situation a person can face. For instance, in Burien, a masked, hatchet-wielding individual attacked customers and a store clerk. The assailant was killed by a customer who just so happened to have a firearm handy just as the attacker was descending upon the store clerk. In this situation, Washington's doctrine of self-defense applies to the gunman, as the hatchet-wielder was not only assaulting the clerk with a deadly weapon, but also likely had the intent to commit robbery afterwards. Given the circumstances, the gunman may not even have to face criminal charges.
Self-Defense In The Courtroom
Should you find yourself facing criminal charges because of actions you took to defend yourself, your best bet is to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney will know the proper way to use Washington's self-defense statute to help you negotiate your way out of charges. If your defense is successful, then per the same statute, Washington State is to reimburse you for "all reasonable costs" which can include any and all legal fees, as well as the loss of time that could have otherwise been spent earning income. This may be reduced depending on an opinion from a judge, and if you had been involved in any other criminal activity.
If you or a loved one is currently facing criminal charges as a result of defending yourself or someone else, contact criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi today.