Will a Self-Defence Plea Keep You Out of Prison?

It is generally believed and accepted that as individuals, we have the right to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our property from harm. Any infringement on this right triggers a defence mechanism that, at times, is purely instinctive.

Self-defence is the act of protecting oneself from harm through the use of physical force. Under the right set of circumstances, you may successfully use a self-defence plea in a court of law, if charged with a violent crime. Canadian criminal law states that anyone who is attacked is justified to respond with reasonable force to defend himself or herself, provided that there was no intent to cause grievous bodily harm or death.

When can you argue self-defence?

Upon exiting your car at night, you come face to face with a robber holding a knife, demanding your wallet. You slowly hand it to him. He glimpses at its contents and instead of walking away, lunges at you with the knife. You both wrestle to the ground and he gains the upper hand, intent on plunging the knife into your chest. You are barely able to restrain him, but you spot a broken bottle close by, and you proceed to thrust it into his side. The robber is seriously injured.

Should you, unfortunately, face charges as you may in this instance, consider this. The Canadian Criminal Code, Section 34 (1) states “a person is not guilty of an offence if:

a)   They believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person

b)   The act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force

c)    The act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.”

Based on the law, one could expect a positive outcome. Bear in mind, however, that determining what is reasonable is highly subjective.

Claiming self-defence is not a guarantee in itself to escape a prison term. The matter is a bit more complicated. The Canadian Criminal Code Section 34 (2) states that certain conditions must be satisfied in a court of law for an act to be reasonable in circumstance. Among them:

1)   The accused was not the instigator of the assault.

2)   There was the imminent threat of injury or death and there was no other means to respond. Any attack after a threat has passed, invalidates the claim of self-defence as that would be considered an act of retaliation.

3)   An appropriate degree of force was used in self-defence.

4)   There was a real fear of injury or death.

5)   Retreat was not an option.

Do you need a criminal defence lawyer?

There is no black and white in a self-defence plea and ultimately, the decision to acquit rests in the hands of the jury or presiding judge.

Your rights are too important to leave to chance. If you wish to ensure they are protected and you require an experienced and reputable criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver, contact us at the law office of Tom Doust. With over 20 years of experience as a Vancouver criminal lawyer, Mr. Doust is committed to pursuing the best possible outcome for every client.

Call us today to schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your case.