You know that you have a right to protect yourself with force if needed. If someone takes a swing at you, for instance, you can physically retaliate with similar force to keep yourself from harm.
But what if you want to protect someone else? Say you and a friend are walking around downtown when someone approaches you and threatens your friend. They say they don’t want any trouble and try to walk away. The other person grabs their arm and throws a punch. Your instinct is to step in and protect your friend, but what does the law say?
Aiding another who is in danger is legally similar to self-defense
In short, you absolutely can come to the aid of someone who needs it. However, they do need to be the victim in the situation, not the aggressor, and your force needs to be reasonable for the situation.
Reasonable force just means that you can’t escalate the encounter to a new level of harm that doesn’t match the risk you face. You cannot use lethal force if there is no threat of lethal force being used against you. You can’t shoot someone for slapping your friend, for example. Nor can you go after someone and hit them if they’re already on the retreat.
Assault charges can often arise from a complex situation
These altercations do become complicated. Did you really fear for your life? Are you sure you know who the aggressor was? Are there witnesses to the incident that can back up your story? Did you stop using force as soon as the threat was eliminated? These are all important questions to ask, along with many more, as you start looking into your legal options. If you’re charged with assault and battery, there are defenses available.