People have the right to defend themselves and their property from harm, but there are limits on how aggressive that defense can be. A person who causes serious injury to another may be charged with assault or battery even if the reason was some form of self-defense. Legally, the individual is allowed to use reasonable means to stop the possibility of harm but cannot continue aggression beyond that level. Charges may be filed and this person will need a skilled criminal defense lawyer for legal representation.
One example would be a fight that begins on the street or in a tavern. One person attacks the other by throwing a punch. The other can hit back but is expected to stop if the attacker gives up or falls down. Continuing to hit or kick the person at this point to cause further injury will most likely be considered assault and battery.
A second example would be the legal acceptance of a person doing physical harm to another in defense of property. Great bodily harm is not allowed unless there is personal danger to the household residents or someone else who is on the property.
A relatively clear case of self-defense would be if a household resident shoots a burglar who was carrying a firearm. Shooting an unarmed vandal who is spray-painting graffiti on a fence may lead to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon or homicide.
One type of defense is legally known as imperfect self-defense. It occurs when someone had an irrational fear of being harmed by someone and attacked before the other person could do anything violent. A lawyer would need to provide strong evidence for the client actually experiencing this fear and the reason for it. A woman who had been sexually assaulted in the past, for instance, might strike out violently at a stranger who groped her during a music festival.
Using self-defense as a legal strategy is fairly common. Nevertheless, the situations can be very complex as the prosecuting attorney seeks evidence that the individual overreacted. Skilled representation by a defense attorney is imperative.