Self Defense Results in Dismissal of Domestic Violence Charges Against Ralston?

Aron Ralston, known for amputating his own forearm, an ordeal which was portrayed in the movie “127 Hours,” was arrested on Saturday night on domestic violence charges.  Ralston appeared in Denver County court today and the charges were dismissed, likely based on self defense issues with his case.  Vita Shannon, Ralston’s girlfriend, was also charged with domestic violence charges.  The charges against her were not dismissed.

Ralston was originally charged for pushing Shannon.  Shannon was charged for hitting Ralston.  The fact that the prosecution dismissed the case against Ralston, but not Shannon, suggests that the prosecution believes Ralston was acting in self defense.  Self defense is an affirmative defense to certain crimes, such as assault.  When an affirmative defense is raised, it means the defendant is confessing that he committed the alleged act, in this case assault, but that he was legally justified in doing so.

In Colorado, every person has a right to defend oneself against what he reasonably believes to be imminent physical harm.  In addition, the amount of force used in self defense must be reasonable.  If these criteria are not met, then self defense does not apply.  Sometimes prosecutors do not agree that a defendant was acting in self defense and will continue to pursue charges, but, fortunately for Ralston, the prosecutors likely reviewed the facts and determined that his conduct was legally justified, resulting in dismissal of his case.

Source:  USA Today, Gary Strauss, 12/09/13