Serving Skagit,
Island, and
Whatcom Counties
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
The National Trial Lawyers Top 100

Defenses to Assault

Assault is one of the most common non-driving criminal charges in Washington courts. In many situations, people come to our law firm who did not start the fight or other conduct that led to the charge of Assault. Sometimes, the police will charge a person with Assault if the alleged victim is more injured than the other party. Other times, the police will cite someone simply because they are the husband or boyfriend in a situation. Occasionally, a person will be charged because he or she appeared to cause harm to another even if there is a reason for such action (i.e., self-defense). In each case, the possibility that a person has a defense to the crime of Assault needs to be vigorously investigated. Call our office at 360-419-0809 today to schedule a consultation with an assault criminal defense attorney to discuss possible defenses to your case.

Use of Force-When Lawful

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section 9A.16.020 describes different situations when use of force may be lawful. It says that use of force is lawful

whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary.

RCW 9A.16.020.

Self Defense

The use of force upon or toward the person of another is lawful when used by a person who reasonably believes that he or she is about to be injured. The person using the force may employ such force and means as a reasonably prudent person would use under the same conditions. This is judged by the circumstances known to the person invoking self-defense and is known at the time the force is used. Once a person shows he or she used force, the burden is on the prosecution to show that the force used is not lawful. Essentially, a person is allowed to protect themselves by using reasonable force. “Reasonable force” can vary, but as an example, a person is not allowed to shoot someone who slaps them. That action is not considered reasonable force and would result in an assault charge. If the judge or jury find the force used was lawful, then the defendant must be found not guilty.

Defense of Others

A person is allowed to use force to defend another person from harm. This defense is very similar to self-defense in that the use of force must be reasonable to the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. However, this defense is applicable if the person charged was defending someone else, as the RCW states, “lawfully aiding.” This defense could be used if a mother was defending her child from injury by another person, or a husband defending his wife from injury.

Defense of Property

Washington law also allows a person to use necessary force against damage to property in which a person lawfully possesses or against malicious trespassing. This could be applicable in a home invasion, for example. Again, the force used must be reasonable for the circumstances and found lawful by a judge or jury.