This morning in Kent County Courthouse, criminal defense attorney Joseph Lamy secured the dismissal of assault charges based on the defense that the accused was legally entitled to come to the aid of another person in danger.
The canon of law surrounding "self-defense" to assault or violent crime charges is large. It is abundantly clear that a person is entitled to use reasonable self-defense if he or she believes that they are under imminent physical harm. There is case law that supports an extension of this self-defense rule to a third party intervenor.
In the case at hand, my client witnessed one person strike another smaller person during a dispute. My client was behind the attacker and when the attacker motioned to strike the other person for a second time, my client brought him down to the ground. The police felt that excessive force may have been used and because the "victim" wanted to press charges, my client was arrested for simple assault. We argued from the onset that my client was intervening for the protection of someone in danger of imminent harm. Today we were successful and had the assault charges dismissed.
State v. Beeley, 653 A.2d 722 (RI 1995) has a detailed discussion of self defense under exactly these circumstances.
...three conditions must be met. First, the force must be such as the actor could use in defending himself or herself from the harm that he or she believes to be threatened to the third person. In other words, the actor may use the same amount of force that he or she could use to protect himself or herself. Second, the third person must be justified in using such protective force in the circumstances as the actor believes them to be. Thus, if the third person was resisting an arrest by a known police officer, he or she would have no defense and, if the circumstances were known to the actor, the actor would have no defense either. Finally, the actor must believe that his or her intervention is necessary for the protection of the third party.
Regarding the final factor, the Court will consider what the intervenor reasonably believed at the time of action. If the intervenor reasonably believes that the third party is danger of imminent harm then he is justified in using reasonable force to prevent the harm. My client met all of the criteria for this case and as such the matter was dismissed.