When is Defense of Others a Valid Legal Defense to Criminal Charges?
In California, it is legal to use force to defend another person. This means defense of another may be a valid legal defense to criminal charges such as assault or battery. However, certain elements must be true to be considered legal self defense.
Those elements are:
- You reasonably believed that another person was in imminent danger of suffering serious bodily injury, being killed or being unlawfully touched
- You reasonably believed the immediate use of force was necessary to defend another person against that imminent danger, and
- You used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend the other person against that imminent danger
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have used defense of others to successfully defend many clients accused of crimes. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of defense of others to better understand when this defense applies:
You Reasonably Believed that Another Person was in Imminent Danger
If you were protecting another person from being unlawfully touched, injured or killed, defense of another may be a valid legal defense to the charges against you. So, what does “imminent danger” actually mean?
Someone is considered to be in imminent danger of harm if he or she is currently being physically attacked by another person or if another person credibly appears to be approaching that person with the intent to unlawfully touch him or her.
For example, let’s say you’re walking down the street and you see someone shove another person to the ground and start to kick that person. You immediately react and physically prevent the person from performing the kick. A police officer only saw you perform the physical act, and you are arrested for assault. Your Wallin & Klarich criminal defense lawyer may be able to argue that you were defending another person in order to obtain a favorable result in your case.
Reasonable Belief that Force was Necessary to Defend Another Person
“Reasonable belief” is complicated because, from a legal perspective, it does not refer to what you reasonably believed but rather what a reasonable person in your circumstances would have believed.
Let’s say you see two friends wrestling around on the ground in front of a house. This could be a sign that someone is in danger, but both friends are smiling and neither are throwing punches or kicks. A reasonable person in this situation may believe that these are just two friends who are roughhousing rather than someone who is in imminent danger.
To use defense of others as a successful defense, your criminal defense attorney will use evidence and testimony that show the circumstances of the incident led to you having a reasonable belief that you force was necessary to defend another person.
You Used Only the Amount of Force that was Reasonably Necessary
Now let’s say that you see two men arguing in a parking lot. Then, you see one man appear to reach back to punch the other man, so you pull out a gun and shoot him.
In this case, you likely did not have to resort to shooting the assailant in order to defend the other man from imminent danger. The amount of force that you used in this case would most likely not be considered reasonable, and thus, defense of another person may not be a valid legal defense.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges for committing an act of physical force, you should speak to our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich immediately. Our skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing criminal charges for more 40 years. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.