June 20, 2012 By Wallin & Klarich

Murder charges are serious business, and require the legal expertise of a southern California murder defense attorney. A recent story from Texas has made national headlines, and brings to bear a question that has found its way into the press elsewhere lately as well: when does an act of self-defense become an act of aggression, or offense?

Last week the quick actions of a father made him something of a national hero in many people’s minds. A so far unnamed rancher from Shiner, Texas was informed that his 4-year-old daughter was being molested by a hired ranch hand. While details of the attack remain unclear, apparently he raced to the scene and attacked the molester, hitting him repeatedly in the head. The suspect died during the beating. On first consideration, one may feel that he was justified, for he was merely doing what any father would do.

But is “what any father would do” justifiable under the law? Lavaca County Sheriff Micah Harmon suggests as much; he indicated that the father probably is not going to be arrested. The fact that much of what actually occurred has not been reported, it is difficult to argue whether this is the case or not. However, what is clear is that if the molester was actually caught in the alleged act, the father was justified in applying force to restrain him. How much force was necessary is a point that warrants consideration.

The father admits to hitting the alleged molester repeatedly. If the initial hit subdued the attacker, however, an argument could be made that the subsequent ones no longer fell under defense, but became acts of aggression. In such a case in California, the father could be charged with manslaughter (PC 191.5), or even second-degree murder (PC 187). An autopsy may show whether the alleged attacker died before the final blows were made.

Some of the more important details have yet to be reported. For instance, it is unclear whether the father actually caught the molester in the act of sexual assault. Sheriff Harmon indicated that the child was not physically injured. Obviously the father felt he needed to protect his daughter, but was this evoked simply by his being told of the attack?

What the father actually saw, whether his initial blows were enough to stop the attack, after which police could have been called – these are issues that need clarifying. Certainly the father’s actions are understandable. However, while this case and that of Trayvon Martin are dissimilar, they do both raise the question of when an act of self-defense turns offensive.

If you face a charge of murder or other offense, hire a southern California defense attorney who has the resources and know-how to take on the challenge. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending persons accused of murder. Call us today at (888) 280-6839.

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