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A person with a knife in the dark, possibly for self-defense - The Zorrilla Law FirmAn Imminent Threat

Understanding the concept of the necessity of an imminent threat in criminal law and what constitutes it in the eyes of the law is vital in order to navigate a self-defense case successfully. In the context of self-defense, the law mandates that in order for an individual to use force against another, there must be a belief that the other person is about to use force and poses an imminent threat. However, ‘imminent’ itself doesn’t have a distinct legal definition in Colorado. Typically, legal instructions for a jury in Colorado are derived from case law or documents like the Colorado jury instructions.

This is problematic. Without a clearly defined definition by the court, the legal system can be left relying on dictionary definitions, which can be subject to a considerable amount of interpretation. As a quick example, let’s examine two dictionaries. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘imminent’ is defined as ‘about to happen,’ and Merriam-Webster defines it as ‘ready to take place’ or ‘happening soon.’ The dictionaries provide a range of synonyms, including ‘impending,’ ‘at hand,’ ‘close,’ ‘near,’ ‘approaching,’ ‘fast approaching,’ ‘coming on the way,’ ‘about to happen,’ ‘looming,’ ‘expected,’ and ‘anticipated.’

Given this imprecise language, experienced and skillful defense attorneys can leverage different interpretations when addressing a proposed threat and the imminence requirement. For instance, the statement ‘something is about to happen’ could refer to the imminence of a traffic light turning green, an event that occurs in seconds. On the other hand, it could be used in how it is used in the statement ‘I’m about to start a new job,’ which implies imminence but could nevertheless occur in a few days, weeks, or months. Without a direct understanding of the context, it is impossible to discount any interpretation as being an exaggeration.

Reasonable Force

The prong of reasonable force establishes a standard or rule outlining that an individual cannot use excessive force while defending themselves in a self-defense claim. Nonetheless, defense attorneys have the opportunity to present various factors to the jury, providing context to what might be considered reasonable force.

To illustrate, consider a scenario where a female defendant, who is only five feet tall and weighs a hundred pounds, is defending herself against a man who is six foot five and 300 pounds. In this situation, specific circumstances come into play, painting a somewhat nuanced picture of the relationship dynamics and the overall context. These sorts of factors can significantly influence how a jury perceives what constitutes reasonable in any given scenario.

Common Scenarios That Lead Individuals To Employ Self-Defense

Over the course of our time serving as criminal defense attorneys and handling self-defense cases, we have found perhaps the most common cause of these cases are arguments with significant others. More often than not, these altercations initially start as verbal disputes but escalate to physical contact or threats. When these incidents escalate, they often start with a push or shove and intensify to the point where someone grabs a weapon or assaults them. This escalation often forces individuals to defend themselves in response.

Self-defense cases frequently arise in the context of domestic violence, where disagreements lead to threats involving weapons, necessitating the need for self-defense, either to protect oneself or others within the household. In domestic violence cases, charges often fall on the man rather than the woman. Instances where verbal arguments escalate to the point of someone hurling large and dangerous objects at another person may necessitate immediate self-defense actions to ensure personal safety.

Other common instances include:

An individual may abruptly stop their vehicle in front of another and attempt to engage in physical violence as part of a road rage incident.

When someone enters another’s property without their permission and proceeds to attack the property owner, either within the property or home, the property owner is often forced to defend themself, family, and property.

These too often begin as verbal fights that escalate into physical altercations, compelling individuals to act in self-defense.

Empowering Your Criminal Defense Attorney To Deliver The Best Defense Possible

As criminal defense attorneys, our ability to construct the most effective defense for our clients hinges on their cooperation and transparency. To achieve the optimal outcome, we require several key elements from our clients, and any good criminal defense attorney will likely need the same.

We have our clients allow us to thoroughly review the allegations brought against them and the evidence presented by law enforcement. This initial step is crucial in allowing us to assess the potential applicability of self-defense to their case.

Once we identify the possibility of invoking self-defense, we encourage our clients to be completely honest about the incident, the individuals involved, and any relevant history. We also create an environment that truly facilitates this by listening to them in an attempt to earn their trust. It is essential that clients refrain from protecting specific individuals, including the alleged victim, by withholding crucial details. A comprehensive account, even if it reflects negatively on the victim, is imperative.

Domestic violence cases often present unique challenges, particularly when our clients seek to shield their significant other involved in the case. To build a robust defense, we insist on a clear understanding of the circumstances leading to the need for self-defense. This includes delving into historical context and gathering contact information for individuals who can provide insight into the alleged victim’s background.

Beyond the date of the offense, we require information about the alleged victim’s history and contacts with people connected to the case. This broader perspective is crucial in fully developing a defense strategy.

We urge our clients to heed our advice, including refraining from any interactions with alleged victims and complying with all court orders. This not only demonstrates their commitment to abiding by the law but also allows us the necessary time to thoroughly analyze the case and devise an effective defense strategy.

At the end of the day, our clients directly play a pivotal role in their own defense by providing us with timely and honest information. This collaboration allows us to assess the viability of a self-defense strategy and work toward achieving the best possible outcome for them.

For more information on The Necessity Of An Imminent Threat In Self-Defense Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (303) 951-8004 today.

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