What You Need to Know About Claiming Self-Defense in Charges of Assault

The crime of assault can apply to a wide range of conduct, and the seriousness of the charges will often depend on the nature and severity of the victim’s injuries.

If you caused or attempted to cause bodily injury to someone else, you will likely face charges of simple assault. Simple assault is usually charged as a misdemeanor, and a conviction can carry a fine of up to $750.

You could be charged with aggravated assault if you caused or attempted to cause serious bodily injury to another person. In Wyoming, aggravated assault is a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison for the most serious offenses. Aggravated assault charges are common in situations that involve:

  • The use of a deadly weapon;
  • Threatening or causing serious bodily harm;
  • Threatening to use a drawn weapon, such as a gun, to cause serious bodily injury; or
  • Seriously injuring a woman the defendant knows to be pregnant.

Defending against charges of simple assault or aggravated assault will depend on the circumstances of your case. Self-defense is one of the most common defenses to an assault charge.

What Is Self-Defense?

When you claim self-defense, you are telling the court that your use of force was justified to protect yourself from the threat of harm. To succeed, you must demonstrate that you were threatened with harm and did not provoke the attack.

You can also claim self-defense if you were defending someone else, such as a mother defending her child, or when defending your home or personal property. You can only claim self-defense in response to an imminent threat of harm.

Self-Defense Is an Affirmative Defense

Unlike most other situations in a criminal case, self-defense is an affirmative defense. Raising an affirmative means you, as the defendant, must prove: (a) you were threatened with bodily harm; (b) your fear of harm was reasonable; and (c) you responded with appropriate force.

Four Principles of Self-Defense

Four general principles apply when claiming self-defense.


A person claiming self-defense is arguing they are innocent of the crime. To succeed, you must not have been the one who initiated the violence. If you are seen as the aggressor or the one who “threw the first punch,” you will have a difficult time claiming self-defense.


To successfully claim self-defense, you must show that the threat of harm was imminent. You cannot pre-emptively act in self-defense by, for example, claiming you were acting to prevent a future threat. Similarly, once the threat of harm is gone, you cannot later commit an act of violence and then claim self-defense.


Your response to the threat of harm must be proportionate to the threat of harm. If you are threatened with non-deadly force, you cannot respond with deadly force. For example, if someone was threatening to slap you, you cannot respond by shooting them and then try to claim self-defense. A proportionate response would be to push or hit the would-be aggressor.


To successfully claim self-defense, you must have evaluated the circumstances the way a “reasonable” person would.

Wyoming’s Stand-Your-Ground Laws

Wyoming is a stand-your-ground state, which means you do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force to defend yourself. Under Wyoming’s stand-your-ground law, you are justified in using deadly force to defend yourself or others, without the obligation to retreat, if you reasonably believe you or someone else is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. The use of deadly force is only justified if you were not engaged in criminal activity and had a legal right to be where the alleged assault occurred.

Wyoming’s stand-your-ground law provides immunity from civil liability, which means a person who uses deadly force to defend themselves cannot be liable in a civil lawsuit for their use of force.

Contact Just Criminal Law for Aggressive Defense Against Assault Charges

Self-defense laws are complicated. If you were charged with assault, you should discuss your situation with your lawyer, who can evaluate whether a claim of self-defense is likely to be successful.

At Just Criminal Law, our criminal defense team has extensive experience defending people accused of assault. To put our experience to work for you, contact us today today to schedule your personalized case review and strategy session. Call 307-686-6556, email inquiry@justcriminallaw.com, or complete our online contact form.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.

Categories: Assault & Battery