The following is a video transcript.
Can I protect a third person from harm?
Defense of others is an affirmative defense just like self-defense.
In Virginia, you may defend another person—even a stranger. The amount of force used to defend another must not be excessive and must be reasonable in relation to the harm threatened. The defense of another against an aggressor also includes the use of deadly force (if necessary) under the circumstances at hand.
Deadly force is justified in the defense of another party when you reasonably believe that the person you are defending is not at fault in provoking a conflict and is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm based on the circumstances.
However, if you reasonably believe that the party you are defending was at fault in provoking a conflict, but sufficiently retreated—and that they are still in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm based on those circumstances—then your use of deadly force in the defense of another would be excusable.
Whether the defended person was in fact free from fault, is legally irrelevant to the defense.
The reason is based on the principle that one should not be convicted of a crime for attempting to protect another (perceived to be a faultless victim) from a violent assault. The policy of the law is to encourage individuals to come to the aid of perceived victims of assault.
For any questions about defending a third party in Virginia and what pitfalls to avoid, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.