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How do you make a self-defense claim in New York?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2016 | Violent Crimes |

New York residents who use physical force against others as a form of protection, when necessary to defend against possible physical harm, could result in the individual facing a criminal charge. However, if the accused believes that such force was required and reasonable, a self-defense claim could be asserted.

How do you make a self-defense claim in New York? According to section 35.15 of the New York Penal Law, an individual is able to use physical force against another person when that person reasonably believes that it is necessary to defend himself or a third person from imminent unlawful physical force.

This type of conduct is not authorized if the individual claiming self-defense provoked the actor that had the intent to cause them physical injury. However, if the individual who was the original aggressor withdrew and the other person continued the incident after the withdrawal, it is justifiable to use force to prevent unlawful physical force.

This section of the law also notes that deadly force may not be used unless the actor believes that the other person is about to use deadly force against them. In this case, if it is possible to retreat, deadly force is not authorized. It should be noted that an actor does not have the duty to retreat if the person is in their dwelling and is not the initial aggressor, or if the person is assisting a police officer at their direction. Deadly force is also acceptable in violent crimes, such as a kidnapping or forcible rape, or if a person reasonably believes that another person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary.

A self-defense claim could help an individual avoid serious criminal penalties for a violent crime such as an assault or battery. It can be important to understand how to prove the circumstances surrounding the situation. This could ultimately help a defendant reduce or dismiss the charges.

Source:, “S 35.15 Justification; use of physical force in defense of a person,” accessed Feb. 22, 2016