The following is a video transcript.
In Pennsylvania, “third-party defense” is a transferable concept. If the third party could protect themselves, could you protect them on their behalf? It is not just with your kids, your family members, or your friends. It could be a total stranger.
What is critically important to recognize is when lethal force is authorized, versus just force; those are two different things.
Lethal Deadly Force
“Lethal deadly force” is exactly what it sounds like. Lethal deadly force would be pulling out a firearm, displaying it, pulling the trigger, and even doing (potentially) a warning shot.
Use of Force
The second one is just “Use of Force”. That is anything short of a lethal use of force, including: using your fists, elbows, knees—even to a degree some improvised weapons of opportunity.
Determining Use of Force for a Third Party
When it comes to third parties, it is hard to recognize whether or not they are in reasonable fear.
Sometimes it is very obvious. But sometimes, it is more difficult when it comes to human interactions. Usually, you have to look at size disparity, potential physical characteristics, the number of people that are involved, or the environment—or what we call the totality of the circumstances.
The 4 Scenarios Permitting Use of Force for Protection
You may only use lethal deadly force to protect yourself or a third party if it is reasonable for you or that third party to believe, under the totality of the circumstances, that one of four potential things can happen immediately or imminently:
- Serious bodily injury
- Sexual assault.
Those are the only four. Getting in a yelling match with someone is not going to qualify to that level. A push, shove, even multiple strikes and blows, is not going to get up to that level.
When it comes to non-lethal force or force in general, if you are in imminent fear that this other person is going to exercise unlawful force on a third party, then you can protect them.
The classic example of that is if you see someone beating up a kid. Pulling out your gun and shooting the guy because he is beating up a kid is typically not going to rise to that level of serious bodily injury.
You can see how the facts change when we talk about it, so it is a very fluid concept. The most important thing for you to know is the important distinction between lethal and non-lethal use of force—and when it is appropriate.
If you have any other questions, then please feel free to give your Independent Program Attorney a call. We’d be happy to chat with you to make sure that you are right on the law.