Do I have to prove self-defense at trial, or does the district attorney have to prove that I didn’t act in self-defense?

Centre County Criminal Trial Attorney

Self-defense, also called "justification" in Pennsylvania, is an affirmative defense, meaning that the person charged with Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault must present some evidence, from whatever source, to justify consideration of the self-defense issue at trial. Technically, the person charged with assault does not need to actually prove that he acted in self-defense, but the person must present some evidence that supports the defense in order to allow a judge or jury to consider the defense at trial. This means that the criminal defense attorney may present evidence, such as testimony from either the defense or another witness, to support the self-defense claim, or the criminal defense attorney may be able to raise the self-defense issue by cross-examining prosecution witnesses. Again, it does not matter from what source the evidence supporting self-defense comes from, as long as some evidence is presented. The decision as to whether or not sufficient evidence was presented of self-defense to allow a judge or jury to consider the issue is determined by the judge at trial.

If the person presents some evidence to show self-defense, then the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did not act in self-defense. If the district attorney disproves that the person charged with Simple Assault or Aggravated Assault acted in self-defense, then the judge or jury will convict the person. However, if the district attorney fails to present sufficient evidence to disprove the self-defense claim, then the person charged with assault must be found not guilty.

Free Consultation with a State College Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have any questions about a justification defense or an assault charge, please  contact our law office today for a free initial consultation at 814-954-1094. Attorney Jason Dunkle is available to answer your questions about assault charges you may be facing. Our office is located just a block away from the Penn State University campus in downtown State College.