The New York Criminal Law Blog

How to Claim Self-Defense in New York

Claiming self-defense is often the best way to defend yourself against charges of assault or murder.

Even though there are certain legal peculiarities to claiming self-defense in New York, the following steps may help you immensely:

1. Make Sure Criminal Charges Involve Force.

New York law allows self-defense as a legal defense for crimes involving the use of physical force in two areas:

However, if you have been charged with theft or fraud, you can't claim self-defense for those charges.

2. Learn the Standard of Proof.

Self-defense is an affirmative defense, which means that you are not intending to dispute the fact that you committed the act. You're just arguing that it was justified.

In order to claim the defense, you have to make a case and present evidence. But unlike the prosecution, your burden of proof is lower.

The prosecution has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in New York, an affirmative defense must only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence -- meaning it's more than 50% likely that the evidence points to your use of self-defense.

3. Know the Exceptions.

There are a number of areas in which a defendant cannot claim self defense, even if force was used in the crime. These include:

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