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Domestic Violence vs Self Defense in California


Domestic violence cases can be tricky. This article will help readers better recognize the difference between self-defense and domestic violence. Once that understanding is built, you can better understand what is required to prove self-defense in a domestic violence situation.

Self-Defense vs. Domestic Violence

Readers must first understand how California defines the terms “self-defense” vs. “domestic violence.”

“Self Defense” is recognized as an instance where a person uses some physical force in order to protect themselves from another person who attempts to injure them. If the use of force was solely utilized in order to protect yourself from the impending harm, then the use of force to protect against the harm will likely be considered lawful.

“Domestic Violence” is found where a person uses violence or aggression in order to harm another person. California law recognizes a great number of close relationships where violence against a person is considered domestic violence. Speak with an experienced family law/domestic violence attorney for more in-depth information on these diverse relationships and advice on whether your situation places you into a category recognized under California law.

An important keystone behind qualifying an act as self-defense vs domestic violence is in the motivation behind the actions leading up to the event in question. Did the person act because they were protecting themselves from harm? If so, they may have a strong argument that a violent act was done in self-defense.

Alternatively, was the action spurred on because the person committing the violent act was feeling shamed, or angry? Was the violence totally unprovoked? If so, the violence could very well be seen as a criminal act worthy of prosecution.

Proving Self-Defense

Believing that you or a loved one acted in self-defense is different from PROVING that a violent act was purely self-defense. In California, the elements to prove self-defense include providing evidence that:

  • The defendant reasonably believed that he/she was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury
  • The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger
  • The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger

Important items to remember include the fact that fear of FUTURE harm does not justify violence. The person must believe the harm is IMMINENT.

Readers must also remember that only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to defend against the danger will be seen as justified.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

Self-defense and domestic violence cases are complex. A skilled San Francisco domestic violence lawyer at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young will be able to help you understand the nuances in your case. Contact our office today with any questions you may have in your own case.




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