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Self-Defense

Self-Defense in Connecticut Murder, Manslaughter & Assault Cases

The scenario is all too common—you’re at a bar, nightclub or even driving on the highway and you suddenly find yourself in an argument. A heated argument, which quickly escalates to the point where someone gets physical with you, a friend, or a family member. Are you allowed to defend yourself with physical force, contact, or violence? Does Connecticut criminal law allow you to defend yourself? Are there stand-your-ground laws in Connecticut? The answer is Yes, but in limited circumstances. So be warned: if you are not careful, you could find yourself charged or convicted with a misdemeanor or felony assault charge even though you were acting in good faith and in self-defense, defense of others, or defense of your property. Therefore if you are charged in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, or anywhere else in Connecticut with Murder, Manslaughter, or Criminal Assault under C.G.S. §§ 53a-59, 53a-60, or 53a-61, and you were acting in Self-Defense, you need to contact a top Stamford self-defense criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

Self-Defense in Defense of Persons

Self-defense in Connecticut is what is called an affirmative defense to Connecticut criminal assault, murder or manslaughter charges. Self-defense is codified in the Connecticut criminal statutes, specifically in C.G.S. § 53a-19. And the law is very clear that use of physical force in your own defense, or in defense of a third party, is justified in very limited circumstances. Specifically, you are justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person to defend yourself or another person from what you reasonably believe is the use or imminent use of physical force. Deadly physical force can only be used if you reasonably believe that (1) the assailant is using or imminently going to use deadly physical force, or (2) the attacker is inflicting or going to imminently inflict substantial bodily harm to you or another person.

As many top Stamford criminal lawyers regularly debate, what is considered “reasonable” force in self-defense cases is initially up to police and prosecutors. We have seen many cases where prosecutors concede that our clients were entitled to act in self-defense, but nevertheless accuse them of acting unreasonably and going way overboard in the amount of force they used. The experienced assault and self-defense lawyers at Mark Sherman Law find these cases unfair. It’s easy to look back at a fight and evaluate what is reasonable—however, in the split-second decision-making processes that are required during a violent attack, especially when someone is jumped or assaulted by multiple aggressors with little or no notice, it is hard to judge what is reasonable when you are fighting for your life or the safety of you or your loved ones. And to make these cases even more challenging, Connecticut law specifically states there is no such thing as “imperfect” self-defense. That is, if the prosecutors think you went too far with the amount of physical force used in your Connecticut self-defense case, then you cannot hide behind the shield of the self-defense doctrine. For all these reasons, it is important to have a top Connecticut self-defense criminal attorney by your side in fighting your murder, manslaughter, or criminal assault case.

Self-Defense in Defense of Premises & Property

In addition to self-defense of persons, Connecticut law allows you to use physical force and argue self-defense when you are defending your home or property. C.G.S. § 53a-20 states that you are justified in using reasonable physical force to prevent a criminal trespass in your home (deadly force can be used if the trespasser is engaged or about to engage in committing a violent crime or arson in your home, or if you are trying to prevent a forcible and unauthorized entry into your home). Similarly, under C.G.S. § 53a-21, the law allows you to use reasonable physical force if you reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent a theft, larceny, or destruction of your property or someone else’s property; however, deadly physical force generally cannot be used under these circumstances.

The Duty to Retreat – Does Connecticut Have Stand-Your-Ground Laws?

We are often asked whether the State of Connecticut has stand-your-ground laws that do not require a person to retreat when threatened with deadly physical force. This question has become particularly relevant to our clients in light of a recent, high profile and controversial Florida case. There, a neighborhood watchman was acquitted of murdering a teenager when he shot him because he believed his life was being threatened even though the teenager was unarmed. The defense lawyers argued that Florida’s stand-your-ground laws provided a complete defense to murder. The jury agreed and acquitted the guard of the murder charge.

Connecticut is a bit different. We have a limited stand-your-ground law that applies in very specific factual scenarios. Generally, the rule of thumb in Connecticut self-defense stand-your-ground law is that outside of your home, you have an affirmative duty to retreat if you can do so safely and without risk of harm to you or anyone else being threatened with physical harm. However, as most top Greenwich and Stamford criminal lawyers will agree, Connecticut law allows you to use deadly physical force, and states you can stand your ground and do not have to retreat, in the following scenarios:

  • When you reasonably believe you are faced with deadly physical force (regardless of whether the assailant is armed with a weapon);

  • When a trespasser has entered your home and you reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent the trespasser’s commission of any violent crime or arson; or

  • When you reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent an unlawful entry into your home by force.

With very limited exceptions, these are the only scenarios in Connecticut where you are permitted to stand your ground and use deadly physical force without a duty to retreat. Top Greenwich and Stamford criminal attorneys also call the stand-your-ground law the “Castle Doctrine” as it suggests that deadly force can only be used protecting your home or “castle.” Of course, if you can prove that you had no option to safely retreat, then you can use the degree of force reasonably necessary. Obviously, these defenses are very technical. Top Connecticut criminal lawyers regularly rely upon the Connecticut criminal statutes and years of case law interpretation to effectively apply the self-defense doctrine. Therefore it is critical to consult with a top Connecticut self-defense / stand-your-ground lawyer attorney to fully understand your legal rights to assert this defense in your Connecticut criminal assault, murder or manslaughter case.

How To Win Your Connecticut Assault, Manslaughter or Murder Case By Asserting Self-Defense

The experienced self-defense criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have successfully argued self-defense in many serious Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford and other Connecticut murder, assault and manslaughter cases. For example, in March 2011, Stamford prosecutors announced that murder and manslaughter charges surrounding one of the Firm’s clients involved in a Stamford double homicide investigation were “off the table” in light of the self-defense arguments made by Mark Sherman and his team of criminal lawyers. Our success in cases like this, as well as many other assault and murder cases, are grounded in our diligence and attention to detail in crafting your self-defense arguments.

Here at Mark Sherman Law, we take on each case as aggressively as possible—whether it is a murder, manslaughter or petty bar fight. Our two-attorney review process ensures that we review witness statements and police reports carefully for proof and evidence of self-defense elements. If needed, we engage a private investigator to gather witness statements to corroborate your self-defense theory. Further, if required, we will file the appropriate motions with the court to preserve electronic surveillance evidence—that is, the digital video and audio surveillance recordings of the conduct leading to the arrest and the acts or omissions that may have justified your use of physical force in self-defense or your defense of other people or property. As we have learned over our years of arguing self-defense, evidence disappears quickly so if you have been wrongfully arrested for murder, manslaughter or assault in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Westport, or Fairfield, and you were acting in self-defense, you should contact a self-defense lawyer at Mark Sherman Law to begin fighting your charges with a solid self-defense argument.

Civil Liability & Self-Defense: Can I Get Sued For Acting In Self-Defense?

One last consideration that should be emphasized in any self-defense case are the civil consequences—that is, whether you can be sued in civil court for money damages by the person who has suffered injury as result of the physical force you used when defending yourself or others. We have seen this story all too often—one of our clients is harassed and assaulted at a bar, our client defends himself with physical force, injures his or her assailant, and then later gets sued in civil court for the injuries our client caused in a fight that they did not even start or instigate!

While these civil lawsuits are outrageous, they usually come part and parcel with many of the Connecticut murder, manslaughter and assault cases pending in Connecticut Superior Court. The self-defense lawyers at Mark Sherman Law will not be bullied or intimidated by the threat of these civil lawsuits. We routinely work with our clients and defend them against both the criminal and civil lawsuits that are waged against our clients. We will work with you to make sure that in asserting your self-defense arguments, you do not make any statements or admissions that could expose you to any additional civil liability. And just as importantly, in an effort to save you money in lawyer fees and limit your exposure to these civil lawsuits, we will do everything we can to engage your insurance carriers and trigger coverage so your insurance company will pay your lawyer fees and any recovery amounts sought in these civil cases.

Contact an Experienced Stamford Self-Defense Criminal Lawyer Before It’s Too Late

As explained above, there are many moving parts to a successful self-defense case. Police and prosecutors will be aggressively challenging the reasonableness of force used, arguing that such force was not even necessary, and claiming you failed to comply with your duty to retreat. Thus, when you are facing charges for murder, manslaughter or assault in Stamford, Greenwich or any other Connecticut jurisdiction, your case for self-defense is sometimes your only defense and cannot be taken lightly. So if you are looking for an experienced team of lawyers to fight your Connecticut murder, manslaughter or assault charges with a thorough and comprehensive self-defense case, then you should contact the criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law today. Our rates are fair, reasonable and commensurate with our experience. Give us a call today at (203) 358-4700.

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