Can my nephew be charged with assault if he was coming to the aid of another?

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Can my nephew be charged with assault if he was coming to the aid of another?

My nephew was recently badly beaten when he attempted to help a woman who was screaming for help and being dragged behind a building. He and 2 friends ran to aid her, and upon rounding a corner of the building, encountered about 15 individuals that appeared to be a gang. About 5 of them jumped on my nephew when he turned to run, knocked him to the ground and kicked him. This resulted in injuries that sent him to the hospital and 5 weeks of missed work. Officers discouraged him from filing charges by threatening that if he filed, the gang members might also file and he would be subject to jail time.

Asked on September 23, 2011 under Criminal Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There's the law, and then there is practicality.

Legally, a person may defend him- or herself, or a third party, from assault or attack, and is not him- or herself liable for assault (subject to not using excessively disproportionate force--e.g. not using a gun on someone who just shoved another person--and not continuing the attack once the assault have been detered or ended).

Practically, what the police may be saying is that if there are three witness (nephew and friends say the gang attacked them) and 15 witnesses (the gang) who claim your nephew instigated matters, it may be possible that the weight of testimony against your nephew would result in him facing conviction. Therefore, if the police believe that pressing charges against gang members would lead to them doing the same against your nephew, your nephew needs to at least consider practicalities as well as his rights.


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