A criminal conviction for assault can have detrimental and long-lasting consequences on your career and reputation. Fortunately, a charge is not a conviction, and you have a legal right to defend yourself in a court of law. Ideally, you should retain the help of an attorney who can aggressively defend your innocence and advocate on your behalf. However, in the meantime, you can explore possible defenses to assault and battery. FindLaw explains three viable defenses, given the most basic elements of assault exist (meaning some fundamental error does not exist, such as mistaken identity). 


The most common defense to an assault and battery charge is self-defense. For this defense to work, you must establish four elements. The first is that an unlawful harm or force against you existed. The second is that you honestly believed you were in danger. The third is that you did not provoke the situation in any way, and the fourth and final element is that you did not have any reasonable chance to escape or retreat from the situation. 

Defense of Property  

A second common defense to assault is defense of property. If you acted to protect your property from invasion or illegal withholding, this defense may work. However, bear in mind that the extent to which you may use this defense varies from state to state. In general, though, a court may side with you if you can prove that you used reasonable force. 

Defense of Others 

This defense is similar in nature to self-defense and requires the same elements. However, the only difference between defense of others and self-defense is that you had a real perceived fear that another person was in danger, not yourself. You must be able to establish reasonable grounds for your perceived fear, such as the presence of a weapon or a credible verbal threat. 


Though rarely successful, the consent defense can work in assault cases. This defense may apply if, say, the plaintiff voluntarily consented to a particular act and then, after the fact, pressed charges for assault. For this defense to work, you must be able to prove that your actions did not exceed the permission the plaintiff provided. You should also note that the courts carefully scrutinize this defense and tend to find that harmful actions — even those you committed with consent — violate public policy and should therefore be subject to criminal penalties.