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Complexities of Pleading Self-Defence

Graham Zoppi & Hillson

April 15, 2024
Self-Defence Plea in Toronto 

Did you use force against another person to protect your home or business? If you’re thinking of pleading self-defence, you should know about the legal complexities involved. Keep reading to learn how your lawyer can help you raise a self-defence defence in your case.

Three Components of a Self-Defence Plea

Asserting self-defence in court isn’t as clear-cut as the television shows make it seem. While the situation may remain clear in your mind, you must prove to the court the following three factors:

1. Reasonable Belief of Force

A legal defence of self-protection must first show you had reason to believe you or another person was having force used against them or was under threat of force. This belief must be reasonable in all of the circumstances.

2. Responsive to Threat

You must prove that your purpose for using force was to respond to the threat to yourself or another person. 

3. Reasonable Force Used

A self-defence justification argument hinges on you using reasonable force. What is deemed to be reasonable force used depends on the circumstances. While judges are not expecting a person at the moment to be undertaking a careful balancing of all the factors, whether reasonable force was used is usually the primary issue to be decided at trial when self-defence is raised. 

Factors that help establish you had a reasonable response include the following:

  • Nature of the threat or use of force: Does the nature of the threat closely align with the level and nature of protection you used?
  • Presence of a weapon: Did the intruder use a weapon, or did you have a reasonable belief that they had a weapon? Did you use a weapon or threat of a weapon with comparable but not excessive force? 
  • Availability of other options: Did you use other options before using physical force? Other options can include giving a verbal warning, calling the police, and using lower levels of force.
  • Capabilities of all parties involved: What are the characteristics of the parties involved, ie. size, age, gender, mental state, fighting ability, etc.

Reach Out to Graham Zoppi for Help

If you’re arguing self-defence, experienced criminal defence lawyer Graham Zoppi can help. He has over 20 years of experience defending Ontario residents against criminal charges. To see how he can advocate for you, book a consultation by calling 416-873-6970.