The following is a video transcript.
Does Georgia law allow you to protect a third person from death or great bodily harm? The short answer is “Yes.”
However, let’s discuss the common pitfalls that you may encounter when a licensed gun owner faces the choice of whether or not to defend a third party. We are talking about when to use “force” versus “deadly force,” and we should address some of the best precautions that you can take to verify that you’re actually doing the right thing.
Use of Force in Defense of Self or Others
To begin with, Georgia law does allow you to protect another person (Official Code of Georgia annotated 16-3-21 is known as the Use of Force in Defense of Self or Others). This is the law that allows you to protect yourself, and according to that law by its very title, you can protect other people.
In other words, you can defend yourself or any other person by the use of the threats of force or force if you have a reasonable belief it is necessary to protect against the imminent use of unlawful force.
Now, that is with respect to the threats of force and force. Deadly force is a little different.
You can use deadly force to prevent death or great bodily injury or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony (any felony that has an element of personal force attached to it). In that scenario, you must have a reasonable belief—based on all the circumstances—that you must act to prevent death or great bodily injury to yourself or to a third person.
But if you do so, you are interjecting yourself into a situation where you may not know all of the facts.
Before you act, you must have that reasonable belief, and that means all of the facts. It is not subjective. It is not whether you felt you must act. It is whether the law or a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would have believed it reasonable to act. Just make sure you are acting on behalf of the right party.
For any questions about defending a third party in Georgia and what pitfalls to avoid, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.