Sexual assault stories have dominated the news recently, and we have received many questions about defending others against sexual assault and rape. We reached out to Independent Program Attorney John Schleiffarth to get the answers to your legal questions on defending a third party against rape and sexual assault.
John Schleiffarth: Hi, I’m John Schleiffarth Independent Program Attorney for US LawShield in Missouri.
Today, I’d like to talk to you about the use of force for protecting others.
We often talk about the use of force and protecting ourselves, and it’s a very similar legal standard that applies to
the use of force and protecting others. The legal standard is whether or not someone else is under an imminent threat of deadly force, or a forcible felony is about to be committed against them. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you have a neighbor who’s being held at gunpoint; if you believe that that neighbor is under the imminent threat of the use of deadly force and you can use deadly force to protect your neighbor.
Also, if a forcible felony is being committed. What is a forcible felony? Murder, rape, kidnapping, assault, sexual
assault, arson, these are all forcible felonies. Now, in a court of law, a reasonable person standard also applies to the scenario, so a court or a jury won’t be interested in whether or not you felt that you needed to use force. They’ll be interested in whether a reasonable person under the same circumstances would have felt that the
use of force was necessary to protect another person.
So remember, imminent threat of deadly force against someone else you can intervene, or if a forcible felony is
being committed and you need to use deadly force to prevent the commission of that forcible felony. Another scenario that arises is you may encounter a situation where you see someone else who is in danger. Maybe a forcible felony is being committed. Are you the right person to intervene? That’s a question you have
to ask yourself. Do you want to risk being sued or potentially going to jail to help that person if you believe that
there may be time to call law enforcement or get law enforcement involved, and you may want to pursue that avenue if it’s a situation where you’re the only person who can help. Then you do take that risk upon yourself and you have to be to justify your use of force, but yes, you can use force to protect that other person.