Say you’re outside of a local business and see a stranger being harassed. You try to intervene, and a fight breaks out. You manage to subdue the attacker, and are relieved to see the police approaching. The next thing you know, though, you’re the one being arrested.
Fighting to defend yourself or another is legal in New York, but there are situations where it can go too far, and you will not be able to claim self-defense in court. If you’ve been arrested for assault or worse when defending yourself or others, immediately seek an experienced criminal defense attorney, and be sure to educate yourself on the law.
Defense becoming an attack
If you or someone else is being realistically threatened by an attacker, you may physically defend yourself or the other person. It is critical to remember that there are limits to how much you may fight back should a fight break out. Laws vary based on the situation, but generally, you must try to retreat when an attacker is subdued.
For example, if you are attacked, you will probably be able to claim self-defense if you fight back until your assailant is on the ground and you have time to run. That claim will most likely not hold up if you chose to continue to strike them while they were on the sidewalk.
Stopping a thief
You may use physical force to stop someone from robbing you or another. Use of deadly force against them – whether intentional or unintentional – will almost certainly negate your chances of claiming self-defense.
Say you see a stranger robbing your vehicle. Odds are you will be within your rights to grab them and throw them out of your car, as this is reasonable force to stop them from committing the crime. If you grabbed them and intentionally threw them into the path of an oncoming bus, it will likely be a different story.
Resisting arrest is a crime itself, and something you should never do. Even if you think that the grounds for the arrest are illegitimate, do not resist the arrest. Call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. They will review the circumstances of your arrest and properly litigate on your behalf. If the arrest truly was unlawful, odds are the charges will be dropped and you may even be owed compensation.
Police officers may exert extra force if someone does resist arrest. In the event of a lawful arrest, if the person being arrested fights back and injures the officer, they can expect to be charged with assault of a police officer in addition to their other crimes. This is something which self-defense cannot be used as a defense for.
Defending yourself from harm is a very intense experience; one that many people may feel the emotional effects of for some time afterword. Make sure you know the limits of what the law considers reasonable when fighting back against an attacker.