Self-Defense vs. Assault in New Mexico: Knowing Your Rights

By Brock Benjamin
Founding Attorney

In New Mexico, you have the right to defend yourself. However, there is often a fine line between self-defense and assault, and people sometimes find themselves facing assault charges following what they believe was a self-defense situation. If you’ve been charged with assault or battery in the state of New Mexico, it’s important to understand whether your actions may constitute self-defense. In this article, we discuss the difference between self-defense and assault in New Mexico. 


Citizens are not required to retreat in New Mexico if they reasonably believe that they are under an immediate threat to their well-being. Instead, in these types of situations, citizens are authorized by law to defend themselves. New Mexico classifies self-defense in two ways: non-deadly force and deadly force. To legally use non-deadly force in a self-defense situation in New Mexico, the following elements must be present:  

  • There was an appearance of an immediate danger of bodily harm to you or another person;
  • You were put in reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm to yourself or another, and you used non-deadly force as a result of that fear;
  • The amount of force you used was reasonable and necessary to prevent bodily harm; and
  • The perceived danger would have caused a reasonable person in a similar situation to act as you did.

On the other hand, to use deadly force in a self-defense situation in New Mexico, the following elements are required: 

  • There was an appearance of immediate danger of great bodily harm or death to you or another person;
  • You were put in fear of immediate death or great bodily harm to yourself or another person and killed the perpetrator due to that fear; and
  • A reasonable person in a similar situation would have acted like you did.

Assault & Battery 

Assault in New Mexico is an attempt to commit a physical attack against another person or intentional words, actions, or threats that cause a person to fear impending violence. In other words, an assault can be committed without the presence of physical contact. 

Battery, on the other hand, is the unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to another person. In other words, as opposed to assault, battery requires physical contact. The key components of both assault and battery are intent and action. Therefore, in an assault and battery case, it is necessary for the court to understand the sequence of events and mindset of all parties involved to make a determination of guilt or innocence.

Contact an El Paso County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing assault and battery charges in the state of New Mexico, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner. At the Benjamin Law Firm, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. Please contact us today to arrange an initial consultation with an experienced El Paso County criminal defense attorney.

About the Author
Brock Benjamin is board-certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  His practice is primarily state and federal criminal law and appeals.Brock 

Posted in: Criminal Defense