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What does “imminent danger” mean in self-defense?

Make no mistake, being accused of assaulting someone is a serious matter. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged assault, a conviction can lead to years in prison. Things could become even more complicated if the alleged assault resulted in loss of life. With so much on the line, it is in your best interest that you actively explore your defense options if you are accused of assault.

Subject to the specifics of your case, one of the most viable defense options you may consider if you are accused of assault is self-defense. This refers to the use of proportionate force against someone else to protect yourself or another person from imminent danger. But what exactly is imminent danger?

Understanding imminent danger

For the use of force to be justified, there must be a present threat of harm. In other words, the harm in question must be at hand or about to happen. You cannot react to a threat that happened earlier, or that may happen in the future. In other words, if you felt threatened but the threat has since subsided, you may justify the use of force.

The law relies on your judgment given the set of circumstances

You do not have to wait to sustain an injury to act in self-defense. In fact, the law focuses on what you reasonably believe to be a threat to your safety in light of the circumstances. For instance, if someone were to point a gun at you and threaten to shoot, it’d be unreasonable to want to establish if the gun is actually loaded. Under such circumstances, the law allows you to act to neutralize the danger in question.

Under state law, you can lawfully use force to protect yourself or someone else. For the use of force to be justified, however, there must be a reasonable fear of imminent danger. It’s worth learning more if you face assault charges.