When a South Dakota prosecutor brings charges against someone for a violent offense, the assumption is that the person accused acted with the intention to harm another person. Intent is key in many kinds of violent criminal cases, such as situations leading to assault charges or homicide allegations.
The person that allegedly hurt someone else must have intended to cause harm or acted in a reckless way for the state to successfully prosecute them. Some defendants accused of assault or similar violent charges will defend themselves by claiming that they acted in self-defense, which undermines the idea that they had criminal intent.
When are self-defense claims possible a possible defense strategy for South Dakota defendants?
When they feared for their safety
The most obvious scenario that gives rise to claims of self-defense is when someone had to use physical force to protect their own body. If another person verbally threatens someone or brandishes a weapon, the individual fearing for their own safety may engage in acts of physical force for their own protection. In that situation, the use of violence would not typically be a crime.
When they act to defend their property
If someone breaks into your home, they likely intend to steal from you or to otherwise commit a crime that would harm you or the members of your family. You have the right to use access physical force to protect your domicile, your vehicle or the property that you physically have with you during an attempted mugging.
Maybe you were out with your wife in public when someone assaulted her, forcing you to act in her defense. Perhaps you stopped at the corner store to pick up a coffee, only to encounter a robbery in progress. Individuals who intervene using physical violence for the protection of a third party can defend against the criminal charges a face by showing that their intention was to protect someone else from a criminal act, not necessarily to inflict harm on someone.
Not every defendant will have the option of claiming self-defense. Those who are someplace they legally should not be or who instigated an altercation may not qualify for a self-defense claim in criminal court. Learning more about South Dakota law can help you choose the right defense strategy when accused of a violent crime.