In California, assault does not have to result in any physical injuries but is still taken very seriously. If you have been charged with assault, it is because the prosecutors believe you made a willful attempt to hurt another person. The prosecutor must show the judge or jury that you intentionally performed an action that would likely result in violent contact with another person and you understood that a reasonable person would believe your action would directly and likely result in physical violence. Also, the prosecutor must prove at the time of the incident, you had the ability to make physical contact with the other person. Because there are a number of elements the prosecution must demonstrate to reach a conviction, there are many opportunities for defense. To learn more about legal defenses against an assault charge, contact San Diego criminal defense attorney Jessica McElfresh at (858) 756-7107 for a free consultation.


A strong defense to an assault accusation may be that you acted in self-defense. Under the circumstances at the time of the incident, you may have believed your actions were necessary to avoid being hurt or killed. Self-defense will be a possible defense if you and your San Diego assault attorney can prove:

  • You reasonably believed you were in danger
  • You reasonably believed you were going to be unlawfully touched or hurt
  • You reasonably believed that immediate physical force was necessary to avoid a potential injury
  • You exerted only the amount of force necessary to defend yourself against the present danger

Defense of Another

In addition to protecting yourself, you are allowed under the law to act in defense of another person. This person could be your friend, a family member, or even a stranger in the same situation. The circumstances you would need to prove are similar to what you would attempt to show the judge or jury for self-defense. You and your lawyer must prove:

  • You reasonably believed another person was in danger
  • You reasonably believed another person was going to be unlawfully touched or injured
  • You reasonably thought immediate physical force was necessary to stop the other person from being hurt
  • You used only the amount of force necessary to defend the other person from injury

Defense of Property

California allows you to defend your property, including real estate and personal property like vehicles, jewelry, electronics, and money. This is a type of self-defense. Your attorney will work to show that:

  • You reasonably believed there was an immediate threat of harm to your property
  • You used only a reasonable amount of force to defend your property


There are many circumstances in which you and a person are involved in consensual behavior that others can misinterpret as a threat or act of violence. For instance, a theater act that takes place in public could be mistaken for a real fight. A private sexual encounter could later be regretted or one partner could believe the other went too far. Whatever the specific situation, if you believe you had consent to act as you did, this may be a defense to the charge.

Mistaken Identity

You may be charged with assault when in truth, the prosecutors have the wrong person. You may have been identified by an unreliable witness when you were not present at the situation on trial. If the court has the wrong person, you and your attorney will attempt to prove this is a case of mistaken identity and that you have an alibi for the time in question.

Intoxication and Provocation Are Not Defenses

Many assault charges arise from individuals having too much to drink or by retaliating against someone’s taunts. However, saying that you were drunk or on drugs is not a defense. Voluntarily drinking alcohol or taking drugs means that you are responsible for your behavior while intoxicated or impaired.

Additionally, if you physically respond to another person’s insults, jeers, or catcalls then this is not self-defense. You are responding to a provocation, which is not a defense to assault. However, severe provocation may lead to a reduced penalty or lower charge.

Defending Against Your Assault Charges

If you are facing an assault charge, do not hesitate to seek legal advice right away. The strongest legal defenses against an assault charge will depend on your specific circumstances and any previous criminal history. There is no one-size-fits-all defense, which is why you need an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney help you analyze your situation and build you a custom defense strategy.

At McElfresh Law, you receive one-on-one attention. Our goal is to ensure your case receives the time and care it deserves. We will fight for reduced charges, to prove your innocence, or if necessary, to minimize the consequences of a conviction. We believe in your right to defend yourself and will strive for the best possible outcome of your case. For more information on how to defend against an assault charge, call Jessica McElfresh to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (858) 756-7107.

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