Many scenarios can play out where you assault a family member or intimate partner to protect another person. Maybe it's a child you are protecting, or maybe it's a girlfriend or boyfriend. Whatever the case is, you are guilty of the assault but have justification for it. Now, you must prove it.
Carl David Ceder is a seasoned, trusted assault and domestic violence defense attorney representing clients throughout the Dallas and Fort Worth metro area. He knows how these types of cases play out. He knows how to effectively argue the defense. And he knows that a jury of your peers will understand and empathize–if the evidence and arguments are executed properly.
Each case is different though. So, if you have been charged with assault or domestic violence because you defended another person, Contact Carl Ceder today. He will review your case and explain your options, giving you an opportunity to make an informed decision about how you want to move forward with your defense.
What is the Defense of Others Defense in Texas?
Defense of others is referred to as Defense of Third Person and is governed under Texas Penal Code § 9.33:
A person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect a third person if:
(1) under the circumstances as the actor reasonably believes them to be, the actor would be justified under Section 9.31 or 9.32 in using force or deadly force to protect himself against the unlawful force or unlawful deadly force he reasonably believes to be threatening the third person he seeks to protect; and
(2) the actor reasonably believes that his intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person.
Thus, you must have:
- believed the use of force was immediately necessary to protect another person from someone else's use of or threat to use force; and
- reasonably believed your intervention was required to prevent the harm to the third person.
To better understand what all this means, terms like necessary force and reasonable belief need to be considered because they have legal meanings that must be satisfied.
Force must be necessary to prevent the threat or harm and no more than what is necessary. If the force is unreasonable, then the defense is not justified and you will still be criminally liable for assault or domestic violence. Also, deadly force is not allowed in defense of others except for very limited circumstances. Lethal force must be threatened against the third person in order for you to be able to use lethal force.
Based on the facts and circumstances, the jury will determine if the belief was reasonable or not that a third person was in harm's way and only your intervention could have prevented the harm. Typically the test is that of a reasonable person: would a reasonable person agree that the threat tot he third person was real or was it overstated? If it wasn't reasonable, then you will be held criminally liable.
What are the Limitations of the Defense of Others Defense?
There are times when reasonable force is not justified even if there was reasonable belief that a third person was in danger. You cannot use force when it's:
- in response to only verbal provocation;
- used to resist unlawful searches or arrests (unless the police used greater force than necessary);
- the result of consent by the third party; or
- the result of your provocation.
Also, the defense cannot be used when the third party carried a weapon in violation with Texas law.
Examples of Defense of Third Person as a Defense in Assault & Domestic Violence
Defense of a Third Person is a viable and strong defense when the facts and circumstances support it. Here are some examples of what this could look like.
Example 1: Threatening Force to a Child
A husband/father screams at his son that he is no good. The son walks away, and the father yells again, "You are no good" as he raises his fist. The wife/mother sees him raising his fist toward their son and takes immediate action by throwing a glass with water at him. It strikes him in the head, leaving a large bump and a cut. This assault could have been domestic violence if she hadn't been acting under a reasonable belief that he might strike their son.
Example 2: Screaming at a Child
Using the same example above, except that the father/husband never clenched his fist or raised it at their son. Instead, he only yelled, verbally provoking his son. If the wife/mother had thrown the glass of water and injured him, she may not have been able to use the defense of third person as justification for her action. Verbal provocation is a limit on this type of defense.
Example 3: Use of Force at a Bar
John is at a bar with friends. He starts talking to Jenny, a girl he just met. Another man, George, comes up and tells Jenny it is time to go. Jenny says no. George and Jenny begin to argue. George grabs her arms and pulls her outside. John follows, concerned about Jenny. George starts yelling at Jenny and then says he's going to teach her a lesson and raises his hand at her. John steps in and punches George. John then keeps punching George until he is unconscious. The defense of third person would have been justified if John punched George only once to get him to stop threatening Jenny – it was, after all, reasonable to believe she was in imminent danger. But placing George in serious medical condition is a level of force that may not have been necessary.
Smart, Resourceful Assault & Domestic Violence Attorney in Dallas-Fort Worth
A charge of assault or domestic violence, whether it's charged as a misdemeanor or felony, is always serious. If convicted, not only do you end up with a record, but if charged again, the penalties will be greater, especially in domestic violence cases where you risk being charged with continuous violence against the family. Plus, you have the collateral consequences to worry about. You need to defend against the charges, and to do so, you need a lawyer who can properly and effectively put further a smart defense. A defense of others may be a viable defense in your case.
Contact Carl Ceder to learn more about it and other defenses and defense strategies applicable to your assault or domestic violence case.