Defense of a Third Party

Arizona law does afford justification for defending a third party. This includes mere physical force as well as deadly physical force. However, we would caution anyone from stepping in to use force on behalf of someone they do not know, in a situation, they have no intimate knowledge of.

The law itself is pretty plain:

“13-406. Justification; defense of a third person
A person is justified in threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force against another to protect a third person if, under the circumstances as a reasonable person would believe them to be, such person would be justified under section 13-404 or 13-405 in threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force to protect himself against the unlawful physical force or deadly physical force a reasonable person would believe is threatening the third person he seeks to protect.”

(ARS 13-406, emphasis added)

This law places no duty or burden on anyone to be responsible for the defense of any other person. This statute affords us the option to defend another person, in the same manner we would defend ourselves. You’ll notice that “Reasonable Person” element involved in this one again. That means we must take into account the Use of Force Continuum, Elements of Deadly Force, and as always, our moral duties.

Morally, we only have the responsibly to protect ourselves and our families (maybe even close friends). We have no moral obligation to defend other random persons. Though many of us have this sheepdog mentality where we feel we cannot sit back, and watch evil prevail. It’s a noble feeling, however, don’t let your ego, pride and bravado cloud your judgment.

You may not know the totality of the situation you are injecting yourself into.  As John Locke argued, the duty to preserve ourselves outranks the desire to preserve others.[1] We should be wary to risk our lives, our family, our liberty, and our necks for someone in a situation we do not fully understand.

Is this an armed robbery in a parking garage or an undercover cop making an arrest? Is this woman being raped in the park or is her and her husband replaying some fantasy? Is this woman, covered in blood and running from a man, the victim of attempted murder, or was that an undercover police officer chasing a suspect who had just sliced his partners throat?

In any third-party conflict, there is a lot of information we just don’t have, and we are liable to make assumptions that a very different from reality. The best way to avoid this pitfall, is to stick with your moral right to defend yourself and your loved ones. This will keep you and your family, safer from legal, emotional, spiritual, phycological, financial and physical jeopardy.

*This is provided as a Legal Information Resource and should not be treated as legal advice.

1 . Locke, John (1988) [1689]. Laslett, Peter (ed.). Two Treatises of Government. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.