Is the Defense of Another Person Justified in a Domestic Assault Case?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

A large number of alleged domestic violence incidents involve only the two people. Frequently spouses, these allegations often stem from arguments that allegedly became physical. However, other instances of alleged domestic violence could involve other individuals besides the two main parties.

For example, an alleged domestic violence altercation could involve a married couple as well as one or more of their children. When multiple parties are involved, it is possible that a defense known as justification could come into play.

In Pennsylvania, you are justified in the use of force in order to protect another person from an unlawful attack. This defense can result in avoiding any criminal liability, even when you would otherwise meet the elements of domestic assault under the statute.

When the Justification Defense Applies

The justification defense as it applies to the defense of others is found in 18 Pa.C.S. Section 506. The statute highlights three elements that must be satisfied to justify the use of force to protect another person. These elements include:

  • That the defendant only used the amount of force they would have been entitled to use to defend themselves;
  • under the circumstances as the defendant understood them, the person they sought to protect would be justified in using such protective force; and
  • the defendant believed that his intervention is necessary for the protection of such other person.

First and foremost, the statute makes no mention of any relationship between the defendant and the person they intervened on the behalf of. This means you could use this defense to stand up for a loved one or a total stranger. If you use force against a spouse or family member in an effort to protect another person from harm, you could be entitled to a justification defense.

This defense is not without its limits, however. You must have held a reasonable belief your intervention was necessary. If a reasonable person would have looked at the situation and believed the third party was not at risk, a conviction for domestic assault would have been likely.

The statute only holds the defendant to the standard of acting reasonably given the information they had available. The use of force in the defense of another person is often based on a split-second decision. Even if you are ultimately mistaken on whether force was necessary, you could avail yourself to a defense of others claim if the facts as you knew them made it seem reasonable.

Discuss your Defense Options with our Criminal Law Team

Ultimately, the judge or jury will determine if your use of force was reasonable or if you committed an act of domestic assault. However, the way you approach the judge or jury with your defense strategy is vital in the outcome of your case. By helping the judge or jury understand your frame of mind at the time of the alleged assault, you can give them a reason to find that you were justified in your use of force to defend another person. If you are facing charges of domestic violence, contact our Criminal Law Team online or call (888) 535-3686 right away.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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