Our video and blog post below talks about Common defences to basic assault charges.
If you have been charged with assault, it does not mean you have to plead guilty, or that you are necessarily going to be found guilty if you choose to plead not guilty. There are a number of possible defences to assault, which might allow you to escape conviction, or even potentially have the charges against you withdrawn. Your lawyer can explain your options to you, and advise you on the best defence for your specific situation. Here are some of the most common defences to basic assault charges:
Where you were acting in self defence
If you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted in the defence of yourself or another person, or to defend your property, you might be able to successfully argue your case against assault charges. According to section 418 of the Crimes Act, if you can prove you acted in self-defence, you are not considered criminally responsible. In order to successfully claim self-defence, you need to have acted in what is generally considered to be a reasonable manner.
Where you were under duress
If you are under duress, you are forced to do something in fear of serious harm or death. In cases where you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody else forced you to commit assault, you will not be considered responsible. The magistrate or court might question whether you took any opportunities that presented themselves to avoid committing the offence – such as running away or calling the police.
When it was necessary due to an emergency situation
Necessity is a valid defence to an assault charge. For you to prove that you were acting out of necessity, you need to prove that you were under extreme and unusual circumstances, and that you dealt with the situation in what can be considered a reasonable manner. Situations that can be considered relevant include fleeing an emergency situation, and pushing someone out of the way. The amount of force used, and the action taken needs to be considered reasonable, according to the situation.
When defending an assault charge on the basis of any of the above, in order to prove that you are guilty, the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not acting out of self-defence, duress or necessity. If they can’t do this, it is likely that you will be presumed to be not guilty.
There are other ways to avoid an assault charge. In some cases, you might be able to prove that the police acted illegally, and this might mean they decide to withdraw the charges against you.
Your lawyer will be able to advise you, and if appropriate, write a formal letter to the police requesting that they withdraw the charges against you. This is often enough to have an assault case dropped.
For certain assault charges involving intent to harm someone, being intoxicated can be a valid defence. This depends on the specific assault, and whether there was intent before the person became intoxicated.
If you have been charged with assault, it is important to seek legal representation when deciding your defence. An experienced assault lawyer can help you decide the best defence according to your circumstances, and help you gather the evidence to support your case.