Self-Defense in an Assault Case in New Mexico

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Assault or Self-Defense? An Experienced New Mexico Defense Attorney Weighs In

Self-defense MovesEveryone has the legal right to defend themselves, but simply stating that you were committing self-defense in an assault case against you is not enough. Instead, you must prove that your actions were legally justified – and, this is much more complicated than it sounds.

The right for self-defense is established under the Statute’s Uniform Jury Instructions, and during your trial, the jury would consider these instructions when determining if you committed self-defense or if you are guilty of assault.

What the Jury Instructions State

Under NM General Jury Instruction for Self-Defense (UJI 14-5190), an individual who is threatened with an attack does not have to retreat. He or she can exercise the right to self-defense, stand his or her ground, and defend him or herself. When it comes to one’s property, UJI 14-5180 allows a person to use the force that he or she feels appropriate to protect one’s own property.

Jury Must Believe Force Was Necessary

The jury must believe that the force used was necessary to protect the person or property. Which means of defense to use are subjective – the jury instructions do not dictate which type of force is necessary or unnecessary. Therefore, it would appear that the method of self-defense used cannot be used against the defendant.

Even though the jury instructions do not specify the acceptable style or type of force, it is not as simple as the statute. Persons could defend themselves and still be charged with homicide or manslaughter, regardless of whether they claim self-defense.

The Penalty if Convicted for Assault

If you are charged with assault, you face harsh penalties, including up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500, or probation up to six months.

A Plea May Be in Your Best Interest

Unless you can prove self-defense, you may need to strike a plea deal with the prosecution. Sometimes, a lawyer will agree to a lesser charge, especially in instances where a fight broke out and you simply fought back.

Using the Self-Defense Strategy

If you actually believe that you were acting in self-defense at the time of the assault, then you must retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help present the evidence to the jury so that they understand your state of mind and the position you were in at the time when you felt threatened. By putting the jury in your shoes, they are less likely to convict and more likely to believe your claims of self-defense.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Now

Regardless of whether self-defense played a role or not, it is imperative that you seek representation for an assault charge. Communicate with the defense team at NM Criminal Law Offices today by calling 505-200-2982 or request more information online.