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Violent Crimes July 4, 2024

Self-Defense vs. Assault: Protecting Yourself Within the Law

In Tennessee, specific legal protections are granted to those who use force in self-defense situations. Understanding when use of force is legally justified is crucial for defendants facing such circumstances. If you face assault charges it is imperative that you seek the expertise of a seasoned criminal defense attorney well-versed in Tennessee's self-defense statutes, capable of advocating persuasively on your behalf. 

What is Self-Defense? 

In Tennessee, the self-defense laws state that you may use reasonable force to protect yourself and others from imminent harm. It’s important to remember the amount of force applied must be consistent with the perceived threat. 

When defending others, you are allowed to use reasonable force as long as you reasonably believe that person is in imminent danger. 

If defending property, force may be used to prevent or even terminate unlawful entry into your home or during an attack on your home. Tennessee states that deadly force can only be used if you have a reasonable belief that there is an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm.  

What is Considered Assault? 

In Tennessee there are two types of assault: simple assault and aggravated assault.

Simple assault is usually an act of violence that does not result in serious bodily harm such as punching or kicking. 

Aggravated assault is usually an act of violence that includes displaying a deadly weapon such as a knife or gun. Aggravated assault does result in serious bodily harm such as broken bones or disfigurement.  

What is Legal Use of Force? 

Tennessee law states that a person can use force against another individual when there is reasonable belief that it's necessary to protect themselves from unlawful force. This includes using force to defend another person or to prevent someone from entering or attacking your home. 

The use of force must be based on a reasonable belief that there's an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. The danger must be real, honestly believed to be real, or based on reasonable grounds. 

Tennessee also has a stand your ground law which means a person does not have to retreat prior to using deadly force in self-defense. 

Reasonable Force 

Reasonable force can be used to protect yourself or others from physical harm or death. You must have a reasonable belief that force is necessary to prevent injury or death. The force used must be appropriate and proportional to the threat. 

The Castle Doctrine expands self-defense rights to your home, vehicle, or place of business. If someone unlawfully enters these spaces, you're presumed to reasonably believe there is imminent danger, allowing you to use force, including deadly force, to protect yourself and others. 

However, deadly force can only be justified if the danger is objectively real and imminent, such as facing a serious risk of death or severe bodily harm. 

Excessive Force 

Tennessee law defines excessive force as using more force than what is reasonably needed to defend yourself or others from harm. To use self-defense in Tennessee you must be in imminent danger, have reasonable belief that the force used was necessary, and you must not be the initial aggressor. 

Using Self Defense in an Assault Case 

Self-defense in Tennessee is legal as long as you are able to justify using force to protect yourself or others from an attack. In order to successfully claim self-defense in an assault case you must be able to prove that you believed you or another person were in imminent danger of death or serious injury. You must also be able to prove the force you used was necessary and proportionate to the threat. 

Putnam County Criminal Defense | Defending Your Rights 

Remember, self-defense laws can be complex. This information shouldn't be a substitute for legal advice. 
If you're facing a situation where you need to use self-defense, it's important to consult with an attorney. Contact The Law Office of Douglas K. Dennis online or at (931) 322-4967 for your free case review. Our knowledgeable and dedicated team of attorneys understand your rights as well as the litigation involved with assault cases. We will fight tirelessly to ensure you receive the best outcome. 

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