When you choose to act in self-defense, you have often made a split-second decision under very difficult circumstances. You likely did not have much time to think through what you were doing. In many cases, your instinct may have taken over because you were acting in defense of yourself or others. However, you may be required to justify what you did after the fact when you are facing criminal charges for what you did. If you are unsuccessful, you could be facing a long prison term. Therefore, it is crucial to hire an Appleton criminal defense lawyer as you seek to build your defense. The criminal defense lawyers at Hogan Eickhoff can defend you when you are facing charges.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Appleton, WI

The Right to Self-Defense in Wisconsin Law

Under Wisconsin law, you have a limited right to self-defense under some circumstances. The law is laid out in WI Statutes 939.48, which is titled “Self-Defense and Defense of Others.” The law states:

“A person is privileged to threaten or intentionally use force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with his or her person by such other person.”

When Is It Reasonable to Use Force?

There are a number of key considerations at work in this statute. The first is when you are able to use the force. The law is based on whether you have a “reasonable” belief that there is unlawful interference with your person. In other words, you cannot use force based on an unreasonable and subjective belief that most people would not share. For example, if someone tapped your arm, and you fired shots or violently assaulted them, it may be considered an unreasonable belief.

Reasonableness is usually measured on an objective standard, as opposed to what you perceived or thought. If you overreacted, then your defense may be unsuccessful. However, if you were being robbed or assaulted, you may be justified in using force to respond.

Then, the next question is whether the “interference” that prompted your force was unlawful. The law defines “unlawful” as something that is “tortious or expressly prohibited by criminal law or both.” If someone punches you or pulls a knife, it would be considered an unlawful interference.

The Amount of Force Used Must Be Reasonable

There is such a thing as a disproportionate amount of force that would not allow you to argue self-defense. The force you use must be proportionate to the threat that you face. You are not allowed to use force that is deadly or intended to cause great bodily harm when you do not face the threat of imminent death or great bodily harm. In other words, if someone is shoving you, then it would be excessive to pull a gun and shoot them. Even if you faced a threat, your self-defense arguments would be unsuccessful when you used far too much force for the situation.

Exceptions to Self-Defense

You may not always use self-defense in response to charges. Wisconsin law carves out a number of exceptions to the self-defense doctrine, including:

  • You provoked the original incident in which the other party put you in danger (you can only reestablish self-defense if you withdrew from the fight in good faith)
  • You were engaged in criminal activity at the time of the incident
  • You used force against a public safety worker who was entering your premises in the performance of their initial duties (and they identified themselves first)

Duty to Retreat Laws

Wisconsin is one of the states that impose upon you a duty to retreat before you can use force. Wisconsin does not have a “stand your ground” law like other states. The judge would consider whether you had a reasonable opportunity to remove yourself from the scene before you used force. However, Wisconsin does have a “Castle Doctrine.” You do not have to retreat from your home or business before you use force. However, the Castle Doctrine does not mean that you can shoot anyone who trespasses on your property. The same requirements apply to the use of force in your home or business that apply elsewhere.

Defense of Others and Property

Wisconsin law also allows you to use some degree of force in defense of others and property. You can use the same kind of force in defense of others under the same conditions as when you can defend yourself. You must reasonably believe that the other person would have the right to use self-defense if they were doing it themselves. In addition, your use of force must be reasonable, meaning that you cannot use deadly force or that which is intended to cause great bodily harm if the other person is not facing a similar threat.

How to Plead Self-Defense

You have to plead self-defense as an affirmative defense once you are charged with a crime. In other words, you are admitting that you used force, but you are also saying that it was justified. Then, your case comes down to whether you can prove that you met the statutory requirements for self-defense. It can be very challenging, but you could lose your case if you do not have proof for your defense. Your attorney would need to present evidence because you are the one who has the burden to prove an affirmative defense. If you do not meet your own burden, you would lose your case. Thus, you are taking a risk when you argue self-defense, but it is one that you often must take.

Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you have been charged with a serious crime, you cannot afford to delay getting legal help. Reach out to the experienced criminal defense lawyer at Hogan Eickhoff for immediate and vigorous legal representation. You can schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys by contacting us today at (920) 450-9800.