Legitimate Defence Law: what’s new

The new Italian law on legitimate defence has been recently approved on 28.03.2019.
The law widens the scope of legitimate defence and intensifies penalties for theft, robbery and trespassing.

The reform amends Article 52 of the Italian Criminal Code, which rules legitimate defence. In particular, it is stated that the defence is always considered proportionate to the offence.
The consequence is that the discretionary assessment of the Judge will be very narrow on evaluating these cases.

Additionally, the concept of offence is also widened. In fact, the person who performs an act to prevent the intrusion by violence or by threat of weapons always acts in legitimate defence.

Furthermore, the reform also amends Article 55 of the Italian Criminal Code, which provides for the so-called excess of legitimate defence: in case of exceeding the limits of legitimate defence, the ordinary rules on crimes will apply.
However, with the reform, these limits are removed and those who have acted to defend themselves or someone else cannot be judged guilty.

In addition, in order to intensify the penalties for certain crimes, the reform introduces the free legal aid in cases of legitimate defence: in case of acquittal or dismissal, the legitimate defender will not have to pay any fee.

Nevertheless, the reform does not change the main principle of legitimate defence: for there to be a legitimate defence, an attack must first take place. Therefore, judges will always have to assess the evidence in accordance with legal principles.

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