First, let me remind you guys that I am not a lawyer and these are strictly my personal opinions based on my own morals, training, and interpretation of the law. This is not intended to be legal opinion, nor legal advice, but for general educational purposes. For further information, I suggest seeking legal counsel from an attorney in your particular state about applicable laws.
You have the responsibility and the right to protect your loved ones and yourself from death or great bodily harm. Now, we’re not talking about your family or yourself—this is defense of a complete stranger. So, what about strangers? Do you have the obligation to help others in violent encounters?
Most have heard of the “Good Samaritan” rule or law (GSL). Depending on your state, that “legal duty” to help a stranger varies. Usually there is No Legal Duty. So, check with your state’s laws. Personally, this troubles me, but understand that I must also be concerned with my personal protection (legally) in uncertain situations involving strangers. There is no requirement by law that (without a specific relationship) someone should be prosecuted for not putting their life in danger to help another person. Therefore, you need to understand that there are certain conditions that must exist. Again, check your states’ laws.
Take Florida’s for example, there is generally “a duty to help or rescue” only where:
- The helper created the dangerous situation
- There is a special relationship between the helper and the person needing help (ie. Teacher and student; parent and child) OR
- The helper began providing help to the person in need and as a result, others who might have helped have retreated allowing the helper to perform aid/rescue, among other circumstances
Florida and some other states have GSL or acts which provide immunity from civil and/or criminal liabilities for those who voluntarily provide help to others. However, again—check the laws because GSLs do have exceptions.
There are also “Reasonableness Standards” which get hairy; these are laws that allow people to use force to protect others they “reasonably” believe to be in imminent danger. But, what is “reasonable” for one, is not for another.” And it just gets more and more complex.
So OK, what now? I haven’t answered the question. What do you do?
Well first, you want to avoid a dangerous situation if at all possible.
In a situation where you are suddenly thrust into a dangerous situation keep these things in mind:
- Remember the 3-3-3 Rule of self-defense. You have three seconds or less to respond, at a close encounter distance of less than three yards, and usually three shots max are fired and it is over (if you choose to use deadly force).
- Do not endanger in your own safety any more than necessary to control the unknown situation
- Don’t make assumptions; who you perceive to be the “dirtbag” may not necessarily be a dirtbag (because you will not have all the information).
- ONLY use as much force as necessary.
- Deescalate the situation keeping in mind that drawing your weapon could increase the risk to the person in distress, others in the area, and yourself.
- Accept that deadly force is the LAST resort only to save your life or others.
Because every situation is different, you are going to have to think ahead of time about what to do when.
For example, if you are presented with a situation where you hear a shot, turn a corner and see a man you perceive to be a dirtbag standing over a middle class 30 year old with a gun— what then? REMEMBER: you do not have all the information and you only see one weapon. If this were me, I would draw my weapon—not aiming at either person—and loudly ask what is going on and if the man who appears to be in distress is in need of help.
Every encounter is specific and subjective. Plan ahead—determine in advance what you would do by knowing key concepts and considerations. AND check the laws. Stay informed.
Where are you guys living now? Shout-out to my Southern US readers! Stay safe with all the crazy weather and all the hurricanes!
photo: Waewkidja / Freepik