What are possible legal self-defense options in felony assaults/battery?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What are possible legal self-defense options in felony assaults/battery?

Lately I have been in a few incidents where I wish I had some form to defend myself. In a public place, if I feel threatened what are my possible options to defend myself? What options are available to me if someone is going to assault me, but has not actually touched me. I read that assault doesn’t have to be physical, they can walk up/raise a fist and that counts as an assault. Could I shoot someone with a BB gun in self defense? Is an air gun an acceptable form of self defense? Lastly, If I am in my car, does that constitute as being within my property, so if someone reaches into my car, could I shoot them in self-defense? I’m in N.H.

Asked on December 29, 2018 under Criminal Law, New Hampshire


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can only defend yourself in response to a credible imminent threat of assault (or during an ongoing assault). Subjectively feeling threatened is not enough: a reasonable person would have to concur that an attack was about to be launched at you. Therefore, if your experience have made you "skittish," you can't rely on your past experiences as a justification for acting when another person would not have. 
1) Someone touches you but not in a way that a reasonable person would conclude that they are trying to hurt you (e.g. pokes you with a finger while making a point; grabs your wrist for a moment to get your attention)--you can't use force.
2) Someone raises a hand, but it does not appear they are going to actually punch you--it's just posturing. You can't use force.
3) Someone reaches into your car, but without striking you or using a weapon, such as while having a non-violent argument with you; you can't use force.
4) Someone cocks a fist back preparatory to striking you--basically, "winding up"; you can use force.
5) Someone brandishes a weapon (knife; bottle held like a club, not like something he/she is drinking from; pepperspray or mace; etc.) at you; you don't have to wait until the weapon is used, but can pre-emptively use force.
6) Someone reaches into your car to prevent you from getting away from them while saying "I'm gonna teach or a lesson," or "You're gonna pay," or anything like that--it is credible and reasonable that they will attack, so you can use force.
If you use force when you should not, it's not self-defense--it's assault.
You can generally use force proportional to the threat. To oversimplify: someone your size tries to punch you, you can punch or knee, etc. them. Someone larger than you (so who could reasonably inflict significant harm with his/her hands) tries to punch you, or anyone draws a weapon on you, you could use an actual or makeshift weapon.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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