Fight or Flight? Defense of Others in DC Assault Cases
In any threatening situation—whether it be a threat against you, a loved one, or a complete stranger—you are faced with the choice to either fight the threat or flee the situation. Fortunately, District of Columbia law recognizes, not only a right to defend yourself from harm, but also the right to defend others from harm. Your Washington, D.C. assault lawyer should be very familiar with this right, and prepared to use it as a defense in your D.C. assault case.
Defense of a Third Person is a legal justification for using force against another person. So while it is almost always illegal to harm another person, the law allows it in some situations. You are permitted to use a reasonable amount of force to defend another person if (1) you actually believe that the other person is in imminent danger of bodily harm, and if (2) you have reasonable grounds for that belief. Simply put, if the person you are defending has the right to defend themselves from harm, you also have the right to defend that person.
However, you are only justified in using force that is no greater than the force of harm threatening the third party. For example: you and a friend are at a bar, when you witness an unruly patron punches your friend in the face. You see that the stranger is about to punch your friend for a second time, so you punch the stranger to protect your friend. Because the force you used was equal to the force the stranger used against your friend, you may be justified in your defense of a third party.
Deadly force is justified only when deadly force is being threatened. The questions to ask when determining if deadly force is justified are 1) whether you actually believe that the third party is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm and 2) whether you can protect that person only by using deadly force against the assailant. Your belief must also be reasonable at the time of the incident. What this means is that another reasonable person in a similar situation would have reacted in the same manner as you did.
In the unfortunate event that you are arrested for a simple or aggravated assault arising out of your defense of a third party, it is of the utmost importance that you hire an experienced D.C. criminal defense lawyer who has experience in raising third party defense claims. While D.C. law does not require that you prove you acted in defense of another person, some evidence to that effect needs to be introduced at trial. Once some evidence is introduced that you were defending a third party, the government bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not act in the defense of another person.
Because simple assault carries a maximum penalty of 180 days jail time and/or a $1,000 fine, it is imperative that you hire a skilled D.C. assault lawyer who will advocate that your actions were justifiable as defense of others. The need is even greater if you are charged with the felony, aggravated assault. Criminal defense lawyer Jay Mykytiuk will fight for your right to fight for those in danger.
If your or someone you know has been arrested for Simple Assault in the District, call Jay Mykytiuk immediately for a consultation.