Utilizing the Defense of Others Defense

Rooted in the principle that individuals have the right to protect not only themselves but also those around them from imminent harm, the “defense of others” plays a pivotal role in shaping the dynamics of criminal cases.

The Foundation of Defense of Others in California

In California, the defense of others doctrine is grounded in the same principles that underlie self-defense: it hinges on the belief that an individual is justified in using force, including deadly force, to protect another person from imminent danger or harm. This defense rests on the premise that a person who intervenes to reasonably protect another person should not be penalized for their actions.

Viable Scenarios for Defense of Others Strategy
  • Home Invasion: Consider a situation where a concerned neighbor witnesses an intruder breaking into the home of a young family while they are present. The neighbor, armed with the knowledge that the family is in grave danger, intervenes and uses force to apprehend the intruder, preventing potential harm to the family. If the neighbor is later charged with assault or battery against the intruder, he could use the defense of others as a viable strategy.
  • Schoolyard Altercation: Suppose a high school student witnesses a classmate being violently attacked by a bully, causing serious injury. The student intervenes to stop the attack by using necessary force, which protects the victim from further harm, but also injures the bully in the process. The defense of others principle could be invoked to justify the student's actions.
Situations Where Defense of Others Is Less Likely to Succeed
  • Excessive Force: While defense of others is predicated on the use of reasonable force, the defense might not apply if the intervening individual uses excessive force that goes beyond what is necessary to protect the other person. For instance, if a person uses deadly force to defend another against a relatively minor threat, the defense of others doctrine may not successfully justify their actions and shield them from criminal liability.
  • No Imminent Threat: The doctrine of defense of others also requires the presence of an imminent threat. If the intervening party mistakenly perceives danger or uses force when no immediate harm is present, the defense of others may not serve as a strong legal argument.
  • Provocation or Aggressor Status: If the person intervening on behalf of another initiated the altercation or was the aggressor in the situation, the defense of others argument may not hold. The doctrine is based on a reactive response to protect, rather than an aggressive initiation of conflict.
The Role of Reasonableness in Defense of Others Cases

Central to the defense of others doctrine is the concept of reasonableness. The law evaluates the actions of the intervening individual based on a standard of what a reasonable person would do in the same circumstances. This evaluation involves considering factors such as the degree of danger faced by the person being protected, the level of force used by the intervenor, and whether the intervenor had a reasonable belief that the intervention was necessary.

If you have been arrested for a crime in which you were defending someone else against imminent harm, it is critical that you discuss your case immediately with a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut has successfully defended countless cases where a person who tried to intervene and do the right thing was needlessly charged with a crime.

For more information about the criminal justice process, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at (888) 334-6344 or (323) 464-6453.

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