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Difference between assault with a deadly weapon and self-defense

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2023 | Weapon Crimes |

In Missouri, assault with a deadly weapon refers to knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical injury to another person using a weapon capable of causing serious harm or death. This crime’s severity varies depending on the intent, degree of injury and whether the weapon is unlawful. A person commits this offense when they act with knowledge of their action’s potential consequences.

The role of self-defense

Contrastingly, self-defense pertains to the use of force to protect oneself from imminent harm. Individuals have a right to defend themselves, their family or their property from immediate danger. The crucial component is that the force used must be proportionate to the threat faced. This means if an aggressor threatens you with a non-deadly attack, you cannot respond with deadly force.

Understanding the castle doctrine

Missouri law operates under the “castle doctrine,” which permits homeowners to use deadly force against intruders if they believe it is necessary to prevent imminent harm or death. However, this does not apply when someone uses force in a situation where they could safely retreat or de-escalate the situation. It is important to note that the application of self-defense depends on a reasonable belief of immediate danger.

While assault with a deadly weapon and self-defense may appear related, they occupy distinct legal spaces in Missouri law. The key distinction lies in the intent and the proportionality of the response to the threat. An individual committing assault with a deadly weapon knowingly inflicts harm, whereas self-defense involves acting to prevent imminent harm. This understanding can assist in deciphering the nuances of Missouri’s legal framework relating to these actions.