Can assault charges be filed against me if it was self defense?

UPDATED: Jan 2, 2012

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Can assault charges be filed against me if it was self defense?

I was involved in a fight with a friend of mine. He has admitted to his mother and I that he started this fight. During the fight I knocked 2 of his teeth out. His parents are telling me that I must pay to have the teeth fixed or charges will be filed against me. What are my options in this situation?

Asked on January 2, 2012 under Criminal Law, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Generally, "self defense" is a defense to either criminal or civil liability for assault. However, whether something was self defense hinges on more than just who started the fight. The other issues are:

1) Was the amount of force you used appropriate--e.g., if he just pushed you in the shoulder, then you punched him repeatedly, hit him with an object, pushed his face into the wall, etc., what you did was probably not self defense, since it went well beyond the force used on you.

2) Did you injure him after the fight was over? If he tried to walk away from the fight or otherwise disengage from it, then you knocked his teeth, at that point, it's no longer self defense.

 If you believe that under the circumstances, it was self-defense, then you should have a good defense if anyone attempts to take legal action--though it may be worth trying to settle, and offering to pay something, to avoid even having to defend yourself in court.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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