Commonwealth v. Johnson, 412 Mass. 368 makes defending another a criminal defense. Indeed, a person can be found not guilty if they came to the aid of another person using reasonable force.
This post will answer some frequently asked questions about the defense of another.
Can a person use force to defend another?
A person may use reasonable force when it is necessary to help another person, if it reasonably appears that the person being aided is in a situation where the law would allow him to act in self-defense of himself.
Use of force is justified only in response to immediate danger to a third person.
What does the government need to show to prove that I used unreasonable force in defending another?
If there is any evidence that the defendant may have been coming to the aid of another person, the defendant must be found NOT GUILTY unless the Commonwealth proves beyond a reasonable doubt at least one of the following two things:
- That a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would not have believed that his or her use of force was necessary in order to protect the third party.
- That a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would not have believed that the third party was justified in using such force in his or her own self-defense.
Why do self-defense and defense of another sound so similar?
The legal principles regarding defense of another are not unlike those that control the use of self-defense. As with self-defense, in determining whether there is sufficient evidence to raise the issue of defense of another, all reasonable inferences ideally will be resolved in favor of the defendant.
The Commonwealth has the burden of disproving both self-defense and the defense of another beyond reasonable doubt.
Am I allowed to help another resist an unlawful arrest?
A defendant cannot assist another in resisting an unlawful arrest unless a police officer uses excessive or unnecessary force. In this situation, the self-defense rules regarding if a police officer uses such force to make an arrest apply.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH UNLAWFULLY DEFENDING ANOTHER, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.