The Right to Self-Defense
Most courts rarely have to decide whether there is a constitutional right to self-defense, since all states generally recognize a statutory, or common law right to use force against another person in self-defense.
In Idaho, one has to prove that he/she was in fear of his or her life or the life of another.
One must also understand that only that amount of force can be used to defend one’s life or that of another.
The Supreme Court of Colorado (1964) decided: When a person has reasonable grounds for believing, and does in fact actually believe, that danger of his being killed, or of receiving great bodily harm, is imminent, he may act on such and defend himself to the extent of taking human life when necessary.
Most would think that it’s pretty clear. Well it’s not.
Three years ago, I was asked to assist with a case where the client was attacked and in self-defense shot the attacker.
The client was charged with aggravated battery with a weapons enhancement.
The facts of the case are that the client was leaving his apartment in the early morning hours with a friend walking to his vehicle.
As they were walking to his vehicle a subject known to the friend approached them from the dark and started arguing with his friend over money owed. The argument became heated and physical. The attacker was much larger than both men and was getting the best of the client’s friend.
In fear of his friend’s life the client went to his vehicle that was near the fight and removed a hand gun.
The Client brandished the hand gun and informed the attacker that he was going to shoot him if he didn’t leave.
The attacker then knocked the client to the ground and while he was standing over him began beating him about the head.
Fearing for his life the client fired the weapon hitting the attacker in the abdomen.
911 was immediately called. The attacker was transported to the hospital and the client was arrested and charged.
During the trial we brought up several factors proving self-defense of the client.
First, in determining self-defense in this type of case, the distance between the attacker and the client had to be determined as the attacker did not have a weapon.
In order to prove self-defense, we had to prove the alleged victim was within striking distance of the client.
There are a number of factors that will affect the characteristics of a gunshot wound and its appearance.
The distance between the firearm and the person shot.
Ricocheting, ammunition used, passage through clothing, and the type of weapon.
As the bullet exits the firearm material exits the barrel along with it and after it. This material spreads out like a funnel.
The flame from the firearm doesn’t travel very far, the smoke a little further and the powder grains travel different distances depending on individual factors.
This is why if a firearm comparison is done make sure that the same ammunition is being used during the comparison.
Using the attackers clothing we were able to prove that he was within inches of our client.
We also needed to prove that the attacker was the aggressor and that he had a past history of this type of behavior. Meaning that he had the intentions of seriously injuring our client.
Most individuals believe that everything comes out in a court of law. This is not necessarily true.
In Idaho under Idaho Rule 404 Character Evidence: Crimes or Other Acts prohibits evidence of a person’s character or character traits is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.
There is an exception to this rule. Rule 404 (a) (2) Exceptions for a Defendant or Victim in a Criminal Case.
(b) subject to the limitations in Rule 412, a defendant may offer evidence of an alleged victims pertinent trait, and if the evidence is admitted the prosecutor may offer evidence to rebut it.
This is why you need an experienced criminal defense investigator assisting in your defense.
I found evidence that the alleged victim was a known drug dealer and had been dealing drugs for some time in the area.
That this alleged “victim” had a long history of violent behavior especially when it came to his drugs and money made from his drug business.
After the jury heard both sides of this story as it was told in court they acquitted the client on all charges.