We’ve previously discussed how self-defense is considered a “perfect defense” meaning that you should qualify for an acquittal. That being said, even with a top criminal attorney, it can be difficult to prove all of the requirements for self defense, particularly in a case involving murder. That’s where the concept of “imperfect self defense” comes in.
How Self Defense Normally Works
In order for a lawyer to mount a successful argument for self defense, he must be able to show the client 1) reasonably believed they (or another person) were in danger, 2) that immediate force was required to stop the danger and 3) that they did not use excessive force.
The last point can be particularly difficult to prove in murder cases where the victim was not armed or extremely violent as you can only use deadly force for a deadly threat. For self defense to justify homicide, you must be able to show that a reasonable person would have acted the same way. Fortunately, if you can at least prove that you believed you needed to use deadly force, the charge can be reduced from murder to voluntary manslaughter -that’s what “imperfect self defense means.”
Imperfect Self Defense Definition
Imperfect self defense requires someone to believe they were 1) facing a deadly threat and 2) the only way to defend themselves was through the use of deadly force, even if either of those beliefs would be considered unreasonable to the average person. The fact that this concept only covers the fact that deadly force was used is why imperfect self defense can only be used in murder cases.
For example, if someone attempted to pull you from your vehicle in order to steal it, you wouldn’t typically be justified in shooting them in the chest because you would have no reason to believe your life was in imminent danger. If that person put his hand his hip during the carjacking and you believed that person had a gun and was going to shoot you, you could argue self defense.
If the jury accepted that a reasonable person would have believed their life was in immediate danger and they had no other way to protect themselves, you would be set free because you would have been found to have been acting in self defense. If the jury believed that you truly believed your life was in danger and the only way to protect yourself was to use deadly force, even though a normal person would not feel that way, you would be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter after using imperfect self defense.
If you have any questions about imperfect self defense, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to speak with Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Abdul Rahman