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I Should Help, Right? Aiding an Officer in Distress | Ohio

Hello U.S. LawShield members. It’s Wilkes Ellsworth, your Ohio Independent Program Attorney. I want to talk to you about the following scenario, which I receive questions about from members and those attending some of our seminars.

Think About the Following…

You happen upon a situation where it appears a police officer is in trouble. You may question if you should step in and come to the aid of the law enforcement officer. This decision is not without its pitfalls, as even the best intentions can mistakenly label a Good Samaritan, the bad guy.

Distinction

First off, there really is no distinction between coming to the aid of a third party civilian, and a law enforcement officer. Both fall under the umbrella of third party defense situations, and are completely legal under Ohio law. Just as you can come to the aid of friends, family, loved ones, or perfect strangers, you may, in Ohio, come to the aid of law enforcement personnel.

The rule is simple

If the third party could use deadly force justifiably to defend themselves under the circumstances, then you may use deadly force on their behalf. You are stepping into the shoes of the third party. You are not mandated under the law to come to the aid of third parties, and do so at your own peril.

In our situation, it is a police officer who may be on the ground struggling to maintain control of his weapon from a bad guy who is on top of him, or is possibly being under attack by someone with a firearm or other deadly weapon. These are very dangerous situations for law enforcement officers, and if you were to come to their rescue, you would likely be deemed not only justified in your use of force, but heralded for meritorious acts by the local community.

Something to consider

While that is great, and I fully support police officers and the support they provide for our communities, I want you to understand that it is much easier to discern the danger to you or the people you are with, when deciding whether to resort to using your weapon, than it is to assess the dangers to others, who are in a situation you simply come upon.

Perhaps take that extra moment to understand as much about the situation as you can, because errors in judgment can lead to criminal charges and civil liability, and they are not mutually exclusive.

As always, for any further questions about third party defense situations or coming to the aid of the police officers, please feel free to call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

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