Stepfather attacked me. Why was I charged with domestic violence?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I was involved in an altercation with my stepfather where he was the aggressor. Unfortunately, after the police were called I was charged with domestic assault. I am wondering what I need to do to fight these charges?”

Domestic assault is like other assault and battery charges, but the actions are directed at a close family member or close family acquaintance. Like other assault charges, domestic assault can include physical actions which were done with the intent to cause fear or actual bodily injury or harm.

Domestic assault can include very serious actions such as death or severe injury, which are generally charged as felonies, or less serious actions such as slapping or intimidation, which may be charged as misdemeanors.

Common types of domestic assault actions can include:

  • Punching, slapping, kicking, or biting a partner
  • Forcing your partner to perform sexual activities against their will
  • Threatening violence or intimidating your partner
  • Stabbing, choking, or shooting a partner
  • Forcing your partner to use drugs

What do I do if I was charged with domestic assault?

The first step if you are charged with domestic assault is to talk to a criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer can review your case and discuss several possible defenses to the charges. Below we will discuss the most common domestic assault defenses:

  1. Self-defense

The most common defense against a domestic assault charge is to prove that you were defending yourself against what you believed was a real threat or fear of physical harm. State laws may vary on whether you have the right to “stand your ground” or if you are required to attempt to flee or escape so it’s important to review your state’s law. Additionally, to prove self-defense you may also have to present evidence that you did not provoke or act in a manner which escalated the attack.

Another issue which needs to be discussed with your lawyer is the amount of force you used to defend yourself. Courts may, for example, decide that the forced you used to defend yourself was unreasonable given the threat posed by the aggressor. In your case this could be an issue if the courts decided you are a young and strong man and your actions to defend yourself against an elderly man were unreasonable.  

In some cases, however, certain factors could work in your favor. For example, if your stepfather was a MMA wrestler and much larger than you, the courts may find that you might have needed to use more force to defend yourself against his expertise and size.

  1. You were defending your family members

Another defense against a domestic assault charge is that you were defending the safety of others. If, for example, your stepfather attacked your wife or your son and you perceived a real threat to their safety, you may have the legal right to come to their aid. All the issues discussed above remain valid for this argument as well (i.e. the force used to defend your family must be reasonable).

  1. Protecting your home

Although this does not apply to your question, in certain states laws known as “castle doctrines” allow homeowners to protect themselves and their family inside their homes, using deadly force if necessary. For example, if you had assaulted someone to stop them from burglarizing your home, for instance, you may be able to defend your actions arguing they were necessary to prevent the burglary and you believed your family was in danger.

In many states, castle doctrines do not require the victim to attempt to escape but rather allow them to “stand their ground” and defend their home.

Bottom Line:

Just because you were charged with assault does not mean you will be convicted. You will need to hire a defense lawyer and produce sufficient evidence that your stepfather was the aggressor and your actions were justified to protect yourself or your family from bodily harm.

(Tags - assault - domestic abuse - Abuse )

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