How does self-defense apply in cases of assault and battery charges?

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How is Self-Defense Defined in Louisiana Law?

The Louisiana Revised Statutes Tit. 14, § 18 covers when conduct that would otherwise be categorized as criminal is considered justified. Regarding self-defense, the person committing the criminal offense would have to prove that they were acting to protect themselves, a loved one, or property legally in their possession from harm. Many factors go into determining whether self-defense was lawfully used, each of which will be considered by a judge in a court of law.

Louisiana law also considers a person committing an offense, except homicide, to be justified if the offender is:

  • Reasonably accomplishing a lawful arrest
  • Reasonably disciplining a minor (only applicable to parents, tutors, or teachers)
  • Incapable due to a physical impossibility (where the crime is a failure to act)
  • Reasonably fulfilling any of the duties of public office, they are authorized to perform
  • Compelled by the imminent threat of death or bodily harm if they do not carry out the crime at the coercion of another

What Qualifies as Assault and Battery?

While there are different levels of crime connected to each, the basic definitions of battery and assault are as follows:


“Battery is the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another; or the intentional administration of a poison or other noxious liquid or substance to another.”
Examples of battery include:

  • Punching
  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Choking
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Spitting
  • Throwing objects at another with the intent to harm
  • Poisoning/Drugging another with intent to harm


“Assault is an attempt to commit a battery, or the intentional placing of another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.”

Assault does not require physical contact and focuses on any action that could be expected to cause a reasonable fear of imminent harm. Some examples include:

  • Threatening gestures
  • Verbal threats
  • Chasing or charging another
  • Displaying a weapon in a hostile manner
  • Aggressive or threatening stalking

Can I Claim I Was Acting In Self-Defense When Accused of Assault and Battery?

If you have been accused or charged with assault and battery, Louisiana law stipulates that the use of force or violence is acceptable if:

  • You were preventing a forcible offense against yourself
  • You were preventing forcible trespassing on property legally in your possession
  • You were lawfully present in a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle when the conflict started against a person who had entered or was seeking to enter that location unlawfully
  • The force or violence you used was reasonable and necessary to prevent the offense or unlawful entry from occurring or to compel the trespasser to depart

Are There Any Situations When a Self-Defense Claim is Not Valid?

There are some situations where it is difficult or impossible to claim self-defense against assault and battery charges. These are:

  1. If you were the aggressor. If you started the difficulty or altercation, you cannot claim self-defense unless you completely withdrew from the conflict in such a manner that your adversary knew or should have known that you were acting in good faith and wished to discontinue the confrontation.
  2. If you were involved in unlawful activity. If you are present in a dwelling or motor vehicle without permission or to which you hold no legal claim or connection, you cannot justify your actions as protecting your person or property.
  3. If you are in possession of controlled substances. If you are engaged in the acquisition, distribution, or possession of illicit drugs or a controlled dangerous substance at the time force or violence was used, you will not be able to claim self-defense in Louisiana.

When is Homicide Justifiable as Self-Defense?

When physical force alone is insufficient to protect one’s person, one’s property, or that of loved ones, the question of when it is acceptable to use deadly force is raised. In such a moment of extreme danger, there is no time to consider the nuances of the law, but here are some points that may be of use to those looking for answers. Louisiana Revised Statutes Tit. 14, § 20 states that a homicide is justifiable:

“(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.

“(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm …

“(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or … motor vehicle … while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle.

“(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle … when the conflict began, against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry … and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave….”

Is it Legal to Use Assault, Battery or Deadly Force To Protect Someone I Don’t Know?

In Louisiana, it is legal to use force, violence, or even kill in the defense of a person that you have reason to believe is being attacked and could or would have used such force to protect themselves, had they been in a position to do so. The individual acting to defend the other person being attacked must reasonably believe that such an intervention is necessary for the other person’s protection and survival.

Face Your Charges with Confidence with Whiddon Criminal Defense

If you are facing charges, Whiddon Criminal Defense has the knowledge and experience you need to build the best defense on your behalf. Attorney Keith Whiddon is a compassionate Southern gentleman in the office, but a fierce legal advocate in the courtroom; someone you want on your side if you are looking to win. Find out how we can help you retain your freedom by calling us at (318) 594-3592 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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