Excessive Use of Force in Self-Defense or Defense of Another

Where the affirmative defense of Self-Defense is raised, the prosecutor has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, the absence of self-defense.  If the defendant took action to defend himself, but the force he used was 'excessive', he could still be found guilty of the crime(s) charged.  If, however, the prosecutor is unable to prove the absence of self-defense, the jury is instructed that they must return a verdict of 'not guilty'.

A homicide is excused, and therefore not a crime, if it results from the proper exercise of self-defense. 

In order to defend oneself with a dangerous weapon, the person using the weapon or deadly force must have a reasonable apprehension of great bodily harm or death and a reasonable belief that no other means would suffice to prevent such harm.  In other words, the proper exercise of self-defense means that a person in the defendant's circumstances would reasonably believe that he was about to be attacked and that he was in immediate danger of being killed or seriously injured, and that there was no other way to avoid the attack.

On the issue of self-defense, a person may use no more force than is reasonably necessary in all of the circumstances to defend himself.  An individual being attacked or about to be attacked may use only sufficient force to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of the attack.  Massachusetts law does not permit a person to use force in self-defense until he has availed himself of all proper means to avoid physical combat.

A person who is lawfully occupying a house, however, is not required to retreat or use other means of avoiding combat before using reasonable force against an unlawful intruder if the person reasonably believes, even mistakenly believes, that the intruder is about to kill or seriously injure him or another occupant and also reasonably believes that such force is necessary to protect himself or another occupant.

With regards to the issue of the reasonableness of a defendant's belief and whether a defendant actually believed that he was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, the jury is permitted to consider circumstances bearing on the issue of a defendant's state of mind; the deceased person's reputation as a violent or quarrelsome person; and any recent acts of violence.

If you have been charged with the crime of Murder in Massachusetts, it is critical that you immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can explain and protect your legal rights.

Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7.  To schedule a Free Consultation, Contact Us Online or call him directly at 617-325-9500.