NY Self-Defense Lawyer

When you are facing criminal charges in New York due to an act of self-defense, navigating the complexities of the legal system can feel overwhelming. At Varghese & Associates, we understand the intricacies of self-defense laws in New York and are committed to providing vigorous legal representation to those who have had to defend themselves, their family, or their property.

What Are New York Self Self-Defense Laws?

NY Self-Defense Lawyer

New York’s self-defense laws are based on the principle that a person may use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves or others if they believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, rape, or a forcible sexual assault. However, the laws governing self-defense in New York also include several important conditions and limitations:

  • Reasonable Belief of Imminent Danger: The person using force must reasonably believe that they or another person are in imminent danger of harm. The threat must be immediate and unavoidable when the force is used.
  • Proportional Response: The force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat. For example, deadly force can only be used if the person reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious physical injury.
  • Duty to Retreat: Unlike some states that have “Stand Your Ground” laws, New York generally imposes a duty to retreat if it is safe. This means that the person must attempt to avoid the confrontation by retreating before using deadly force. However, this duty does not apply if the person is in their own home (this exception is often called the “Castle Doctrine”).
  • Defense of Others: New York law allows individuals to use force in defense of others under conditions similar to those allowing self-defense. The defender must reasonably believe that the person they are defending is threatened with imminent harm, and the response must be proportional to the threat.
  • Defense of Premises and Property: The law also allows for the use of physical force to protect property under certain circumstances. For example, a person may use non-deadly force to prevent or terminate what they reasonably believe to be an attempt to commit larceny or criminal mischief involving their property. Deadly force, however, is generally not justified solely to protect property.

These laws can be complex, and interpretations can vary based on the specifics of each case. In any situation where self-defense is claimed as a justification for the use of force, the circumstances are critically examined in court, and the justification must be clearly established in accordance with the legal standards set forth by New York law.

Is Self-Defense a Justification for Physical or Deadly Force?

Self-defense can indeed be a justification for using physical or deadly force, but this is contingent on specific criteria being met, both in legal practice and as defined by state laws. Here’s a general overview of how self-defense works as a justification:

  • Imminent Threat: Self-defense is justified only if the person believes there is an imminent threat of physical harm or death. The threat must be immediate, which means the danger is currently happening or about to happen. The belief of threat must also be reasonable; it’s insufficient to claim self-defense based on an irrational or unfounded fear.
  • Proportional Response: The level of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat. For example, deadly force should not be used unless it is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm. The use of force should be the minimum necessary to avert the danger.
  • Duty to Retreat: In many jurisdictions, there is a duty to retreat if it’s possible to do so safely. This means that a person must attempt to escape the situation if they can do so without risk before using force, especially deadly force. However, many states have “Stand Your Ground” laws that remove this duty under certain circumstances, allowing individuals to use force without retreating, even if they have the opportunity to do so safely. New York, however, generally requires a person to retreat, if possible, when outside their home.
  • No Aggressor: Typically, the right to use self-defense cannot be claimed by someone who initiates the confrontation or escalates an existing conflict into a situation where deadly force becomes necessary. If a person starts a fight, they usually cannot claim they acted in self-defense unless they withdrew from the encounter and communicated this intention.
  • Defense of Others and Property: Some jurisdictions extend self-defense to include the defense of others or, in limited cases, the defense of property. The same principles apply—the threat must be imminent, and the response must be proportional to the threat.

In legal terms, self-defense is an affirmative defense in a criminal case. This means that the defendant admits to the action (e.g., using force) but justifies it under the circumstances of self-defense. It is typically up to the defendant to prove that the use of force was justified under the law, though details can vary by state.

Each case where self-defense is claimed is particular to its facts, and courts will closely scrutinize the circumstances surrounding the incident to determine whether the use of physical or deadly force was justified.

How a NY Self-Defense Lawyer Can Help

At Varghese & Associates, we understand the critical stakes when you’re facing charges related to self-defense in New York. Whether you acted to protect yourself, your loved ones, or your property, it’s essential to have knowledgeable and aggressive legal representation to navigate the complexities of New York’s self-defense laws.

Here’s how our experienced self-defense lawyers can assist you:

Experienced Legal Assessment

Our first step is to provide a thorough analysis of the incident in question. We carefully evaluate the circumstances surrounding your case to determine if the action taken was within the legal boundaries of New York’s self-defense laws. This includes analyzing whether the perceived threat was imminent, if the force used was proportional to the threat, and if there was a duty to retreat.

Strategic Defense Planning

Self-defense cases are highly nuanced and require a sophisticated defense strategy. Our team crafts a tailored defense based on the specifics of your case. We consider all available evidence, including witness statements, surveillance footage, and forensic evidence, to build a robust argument that supports your actions.

Navigating Complex Legal Proceedings

Self-defense cases can involve a series of complex legal proceedings, from pre-trial motions to potential trials. Our attorneys are skilled litigators with extensive experience in state and federal courts. We ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process, and we are prepared to advocate on your behalf at every stage fiercely.

Representation in Negotiations and at Trial

Many self-defense cases are resolved outside of the courtroom through negotiations with prosecutors. Our legal team is adept at negotiating favorable outcomes, such as reduced charges or alternative sentencing. However, if a trial is necessary, you can count on our skilled trial attorneys to use their courtroom experience to advocate effectively for your self-defense justification.

Support and Guidance

Facing criminal charges can be an overwhelming experience. Our team provides legal representation as well as emotional support and guidance. We help you understand each step of the legal process, discuss potential outcomes, and keep you informed about the progress of your case.

Protecting Your Rights and Future

Our ultimate goal is to protect your rights and secure your future. We strive to achieve outcomes that minimize the impact of the incident on your life, aiming for acquittals or dismissals where possible or the most favorable outcomes when these are not possible.

When Can I Not Use Self-Defense as a Justification for Harming Someone?

Self-defense is a legal defense that can justify the use of force, including deadly force, under specific circumstances. However, there are several situations where self-defense cannot be used as a justification for harming someone:

  • Non-Imminent Threat: If there is no immediate threat to your safety or the safety of others, you cannot claim self-defense. The threat must be imminent, meaning it is happening or about to happen. You cannot use force based on a past threat or on the speculation of a future threat.
  • Unreasonable Belief in Threat: Self-defense requires a reasonable belief that you are in danger. If your belief in the threat is unreasonable, you cannot use self-defense as a justification. For example, if someone verbally threatens you but displays no capability or intention of carrying out the threat, using force may not be justified.
  • Excessive Force: The force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat. Using more force than necessary to counter the threat can disqualify you from claiming self-defense. For example, using deadly force to stop a simple assault could be considered excessive unless there were additional factors that justified such a response.
  • Duty to Retreat: In jurisdictions with a duty to retreat, you must attempt to avoid using force by retreating if it is safe to do so. If you fail to retreat when you could have safely, you might not be able to claim self-defense, especially if deadly force was used.
  • Instigator of the Conflict: If you are the aggressor or instigated the conflict, you generally cannot claim self-defense unless you withdrew from the encounter, communicated this withdrawal, and then were subsequently attacked.
  • Defending Property: In many jurisdictions, you cannot use deadly force merely to protect property, except under specific circumstances where the threat also involves a threat to personal safety. The justification for using force in defense of property alone is much more limited and often does not extend to deadly force.
  • During the Commission of a Crime: If you are engaged in criminal activity, you may not be able to claim self-defense. For example, if you are robbing a store and the clerk tries to stop you, you cannot legally use force against the clerk in self-defense.
  • Against Law Enforcement: Generally, you cannot use self-defense as a justification for using force against police officers or other law enforcement officials performing their duties, assuming they are acting lawfully and appropriately. However, there are rare exceptions if the force used by law enforcement is illegal and excessive.

It’s important to note that self-defense laws vary significantly by state, and local legal advice should be sought in specific situations to understand the nuances of the law as it applies in your jurisdiction.

Common Charges When You Were Acting in Self-Defense in New York

When an individual uses force in self-defense in New York, they might still face criminal charges, especially if the responding law enforcement officers or the district attorney believe that the use of force was excessive or unjustified. Here are some common charges that might be brought against a person who claims they were acting in self-defense:


Assault charges are common when injuries result from an altercation, even if one party claims self-defense. In New York, assault charges can range from misdemeanor to felony, depending on the severity of the injuries and the intent perceived by law enforcement.


If a death occurs during an incident claimed to be self-defense, the individual responsible might be charged with manslaughter. This can occur if the authorities determine that the death was unintentional but occurred through reckless actions or a perceived overreaction in a self-defense situation.


In more severe cases, if it is believed that the individual used deadly force without proper justification—even if claiming self-defense—they could face murder charges. This would likely be the charge if the prosecution believes the force used was intentional and unnecessary to prevent imminent danger.

Criminal Possession of a Weapon

If the self-defense involved a weapon, and the individual did not have the legal right to possess that weapon, they could face charges of criminal possession of a weapon. This applies even if the individual felt that using the weapon was necessary for self-defense.

Reckless Endangerment

This charge can be applied if an individual’s actions, taken in what they claim as self-defense, recklessly put others at risk of serious injury or death. This can be particularly relevant in crowded settings or if a firearm was used indiscriminately.


If someone uses a weapon or even threatens to use one in a way that makes another person fear imminent physical injury, they can be charged with menacing. This can apply even if the individual believed they were acting in self-defense.

What To Do If You Were Charged with a Crime When Acting in Self-Defense

If you’ve been charged with a crime but were acting in self-defense, taking immediate and informed steps to protect your legal rights and build a strong defense is crucial. Here’s a guide on what to do:

Remain Silent

Upon your arrest, you must exercise your right to remain silent. Anything you say to the police can be used against you in court. Politely decline to discuss the incident without your NY self defense lawyer present.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

As soon as possible, secure a criminal defense lawyer experienced in handling self-defense cases. A skilled criminal defense attorney will guide you through the legal process, help you understand your rights, and provide the legal representation to argue your case effectively.

Do Not Resist Arrest

Even if you believe your actions were justified, resist the urge to argue or fight back during your arrest. Comply with law enforcement officials to avoid additional charges such as resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer.

Document Everything

As soon as you can, write down everything you remember about the incident, including:

  • The events leading up to the situation.
  • Any threats or actions that made you fear for your safety.
  • The specifics of the confrontation.
  • Witnesses who were present during the incident. This documentation can be crucial for your defense.

Preserve Evidence

Any physical evidence that can support your claim of self-defense should be preserved. This includes clothing, photographs of injuries, weapons (if legally owned and used in the incident), and any video or audio recordings. Inform your NY self-defense lawyer about these pieces of evidence so they can help secure and present them appropriately in your defense.

Identify Witnesses

If there were witnesses to the incident, try to get their names and contact information. Witness statements can be vital in supporting your version of events. Your attorney will contact these witnesses and obtain their official statements to support your defense.

Follow Legal Advice

Once you have legal representation, follow the advice and instructions of your attorney. Whether you need to make statements, handle evidence, or appear in court, your NY self-defense lawyer will provide the best guidance for navigating the legal system effectively.

Prepare for Defense

Work closely with your NY self-defense lawyer to prepare your defense. This may involve reviewing your testimony, discussing strategies, and understanding the legal arguments used in court. Be honest and thorough in your communications with your lawyer to help them build the most effective defense possible.

Stay Off Social Media

Do not discuss your case on social media or with anyone outside your legal team. Public statements can be misconstrued or used against you in court.

Mental and Emotional Support

Facing criminal charges can be emotionally draining. Consider seeking support from family, friends, or professionals to help manage the stress and emotional impact of the legal process.

Being charged with a crime when acting in self-defense is a serious situation requiring careful legal handling. An experienced defense attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case by effectively arguing that your actions were justified under the law.

Need Legal Help? Contact Us Today

You don’t have to face this challenging time alone if you’ve been charged with a crime and acted in self-defense. At Varghese & Associates, we defend your rights and ensure your side of the story is heard. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let our experienced legal team provide the guidance and representation you need to navigate this difficult situation. Your defense starts here.