You’ve been charged with murder. If you are convicted of murder, then you face the state’s most significant penalties, including a fine of up to $100,000 and up to life in prison.
But What If You Kill Someone in Self Defense?
In Virginia, you have the right to use force against another person if you reasonably believe that the force is necessary to protect yourself from the imminent use of unlawful force by someone else. In some cases, you may also use force against someone who enters your home without permission.
Let’s take a look at each element of self-defense separately:
- First, you must have a reasonable belief. There is no simple definition of what makes your belief “reasonable.” Reasonable is subjective and based on what you thought was accurate at the time you acted. It doesn’t matter if what you thought was true later turned out not to be true as long as you had reason to believe that you were in imminent danger.
- Next, your reasonable belief must be that you are in imminent danger. You may only use deadly force against someone else if you reasonably believe that you face an immediate threat of great bodily harm. In other words, the harm must be in the process of being committed or about to start. A threat of potential future bodily harm or death is not immediate and would not justify acting in self-defense.
- Finally, you must use a reasonable amount of force in relation to the imminent danger. Your response should be proportionate to the danger that you face. For example, you may only use deadly force in self-defense if there is a present danger of serious bodily injury. Words alone do not justify the use of force.
You have the burden of proving self-defense. However, you only need to raise reasonable doubt among the jury about the crime of which you are accused. You do not need to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Don’t Delay Contacting a Murder Defense Lawyer
If you acted in self-defense, the court might find that the incident was a justifiable homicide or an excusable homicide, and you may save yourself from the severe consequences of a murder conviction. You have a lot at stake, and now is the time to contact a Virginia murder defense lawyer for a free consultation. Call us or reach out to us through this website today to learn more.