This month we want to deal with what to do if you happen upon a situation where it appears an officer’s in trouble. You may question if you should step up and help your local law enforcement, but even the best intentions can mistakenly label a Good Samaritan as the bad guy.
What Does the Law Say?
The first consideration is what are your rights in North Carolina to defend another person? In North Carolina, the defense of others tracks the same principles that govern the defense of yourself. If you have a reason to believe that another is facing imminent death or serious bodily harm, you may use deadly force to protect that person.
This means that it is perfectly legal for you to come to the assistance of a police officer by using deadly force, if you have a reason to believe that the officer is facing imminent death or serious bodily harm. It is also legal for you to use non-deadly force to protect an officer if he or she is facing a non-deadly threat.
Now, while it’s clear you have a legal right to defend a police officer in certain situations, there are important factors you should consider before you intervene. First, you need to make absolutely clear that you are right in assessing the situation. If you get involved in a situation, and you have misunderstood what is going on, you may expose yourself to a civil suit for any damages done, or even possible criminal charges.
You also need to be sure that the officer not only needs your assistance, but also wants your assistance. Police officers are trained on how to respond to threats, and your involvement may interfere with their efforts.
It is also possible that your entry into the situation may make the officer believe that he or she now has the additional responsibility of protecting you, as well as themselves. So, while it may be legal to defend an officer, make sure that you completely understand what is happening before you intervene, or you have actually been requested by the officer to assist.
For any questions regarding defending a third party or coming to the aid of a police officer, call U.S. Law Shield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.