The Two Sides of Self-Defense: Perfect and Imperfect

LawWhen you’re charged with a criminal case and plead self-defense, your claim can be considered perfect or imperfect. The former occurs when there is a need to use force (in some other cases, deadly force) to defend yourself from an imminent danger. This involves no wrongdoing on your part, and is usually available for most violent crimes.

The case for imperfect self-defense, however, is a lot different. This involves an unreasonable perception or belief that fatal force is required, or some unacceptable behavior on your part. It is does not excuse you from the crime of using violence, but it can reduce the penalties and charges. Not all states, however, recognize imperfect self-defense.

Unreasonable Perception

In states that allow imperfect self-defense, it only applies if you kill someone, with an invalid perception that there was a threat of death or injury, or force was needed to stop the imminent danger. This means that you believe (although considered unreasonable) that you (or someone close to you) were in great danger, and killed a person because of that perception.

Deadly Force Must be Valid

Criminal defense law firms like DNTrialLaw.com notes that if you present evidence, following that there is a need for self-defense, imperfect and perfect self-defense could apply. The defense will only be successful if your belief of using force was valid or reasonable. The jury will determine the validity and reason behind your perception or belief.

Reduction of Criminal Charges

In murder cases, perfect self-defense will likely result in acquittal, while an imperfect claim will lead to reduction of a manslaughter charge or penalties. Perfect self-defense is the only type of claim available in manslaughter cases. When it comes to imperfect self-defense, it is an admission that you committed voluntary manslaughter.

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The requirements for the imperfect self-defense claim vary even in those states that recognize it. It is still best to talk to an experienced criminal case attorney. The right lawyer can explain the law and help present your argument.