Defending Another Person: A Criminal Defense Attorney’s Perspective
In our experience as criminal defense lawyers | attorneys, the law surrounding defense of another | defending another is very similar to the law surrounding self-defense. With this in mind, the below generalities apply to all cases involving defense of another and give some clarification to the Revised Code of Washington that gives the statute from which this defense is derived. RCW 9A.16.020.
In general, the law allows you to mistakenly defend an initial aggressor (the person who started it) in a fight. In self–defense cases, if you are the initial aggressor in a fight, the law will not allow you to claim self-defense unless in good faith, you endeavor to withdraw from and abandon the conflict. However, if you are a third party coming to the defense of the initial aggressor in in a fight or conflict, and that third party believes the aggressor to be an innocent party who was attacked and in danger, the law allows them to claim “defense of another” if you believe you are doing the right thing but later are found to be mistaken.
In general, the law allows someone to be mistaken in their belief that another is in danger. Sometimes a protector will come to the defense of another because they perceive that another person is in danger, when in fact they are not. Even if it is proven later that the protector’s perception was flat wrong, the law will allow the protector to avoid conviction if the protector used no more force than the person they were protecting could have used.
In general, one can only use reasonable force. In defending someone else, a third party can only use as much force and means as a reasonably prudent person would use under the same or similar conditions. There are exceptions, but this is the general rule of law.
If you or a loved one is being investigated or arrested for assault because they chose to defend another person, it is important they assert their right to counsel and speak with a defense attorney | lawyer before they give a statement to the police as the law surrounding defense of another has many nuances. Consulting and speaking with a lawyer assures you have an experienced, knowledgeable third party involved in your decision making process. Our criminal defense attorneys | lawyers help educate clients so they can decide whether or not it is a wise to give a statement. If you decide to give a statement, we assure your statements and any witness information are accurately recorded by the investigating officer as our lawyers remain involved in the interview process. After consultation, even if we decide not to give a statement, we can make contact with investigating officers on your behalf, explain arrest and bail issues to you and your family, and begin the process of proactively litigating your case.
Our firm has a unique blend of courtroom experience, skills, knowledge and temperament. Our criminal defense lawyers | attorneys work as a team and are highly experienced in dealing with the complex fact specific arguments surrounding assaults and self-defense claims. Our lawyers know that criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police report claims and our clients retain us early on in the process to make sure their rights are protected. Consultations are free but a poor choice in counsel is not. The first step in evaluating counsel is an appointment.