It is illegal to use force against others in most cases, but one of the strongest criminal defenses to these crimes is arguing that you were acting in self defense. While most people know that you can claim that you acted in self defense in order to fight charges of violent crimes, including homicide, attempted murder, assault, battery and road rage, fewer people know that the same legal precedent applies to protecting others. That means that if you see someone being sexually assaulted, beaten or threatened, California state law says that you can step in to protect them if necessary.
Legally Using Force to Defend Others
There are restrictions to what you can do in the name of defending yourself or others though, and that means you can’t beat someone within an inch of their life for flipping someone off. In order to justifiably claim you acted in defense of others, you need to have reasonably believed the other person was in actual danger of being illegally harmed, injured or killed and that you used no more force than necessary to stop that from happening. You do not need to try to escape or help someone else escape the situation before using force. These details are important, so make sure there is an actual threat and that you do not do any more injury than necessary to stop the threat or you may not be able to successfully argue that you acted in defense of others.
Showing that Your Force Was Reasonable
In some clear-cut cases of self defense or defense of another person, you may not even face charges, this is particularly true if you have a number of witnesses and you used minimal force to stop the threat. In cases involving the use of deadly force, on the other hand, you will need to be able to prove that you used deadly force only against a deadly threat. For example, if someone armed with a weapon is using extreme physical violence, you may be able to argue that you used necessary force by killing or nearly killing the attacker. The important thing in these circumstances is that a reasonable person would likely feel that deadly force was necessary to put an end to an imminent threat of harm.
Contact a Lawyer Before Mounting Your Defense
Because “excessive force” can be so subjective, it is generally best to insist on speaking with your criminal lawyer before answering any police questions. Failing to do so could result in your accidentally saying something that could negate your use of this defense under the law. For example, if you say that you didn’t think the attacker seemed particularly intimidating, but you didn’t want the person they were threatening to be scared, this could be used as proof that you didn’t believe the other person was actually in imminent danger.
If you have any questions about how the law handles the defense of another, or if you have been accused of a violent crime, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
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