Saturday, December 20, 2008

Michigan Concealed Pistol License: Defense Of Third Persons

Under specific circumstances, Michigan law authorizes Concealed Pistol License (CPL) holders to defend other "third persons" who are in imminent jeopardy of severe bodily harm and/or sexual assault. This article will explore the potential ramifications of "getting involved" in a violent confrontation.

A person who is being assaulted by a criminal knows with absolute certainty that he is in imminent danger. In this situation, there is no confusion from the victim's perspective as to what is happening. Onlookers to an assault may not be sure of what is happening, which of the persons involved is the victim, and what actions caused the incident to happen. Uncertainty, a desire not to get involved, and a fear of being harmed are factors that lead to inaction by witnesses.

For example, on May 4, 2007 a 90 year-old Detroit man was severely beaten during a carjacking. The surveillance video (See below) of the incident was horrific; the senior citizen was struck at least 23 times in the face by his attacker.

This incident got national exposure - in part - due to the fact that there were five people standing around watching this crime unfold. In the aftermath, TV talk shows and news radio broadcasts were flooded with calls from citizens who wished that at least one of the bystanders would have intervened.

Moreover, in 2000 another highly publicized and witnessed attack occurred. A University of Michigan student was brutally beaten to death in a Kalamazoo Amtrak™ bus station bathroom by a man suffering from a mental illness. In this case, five people were reportedly situated within "shouting distance" from the crime scene but failed to come to the victim's aid. In fact, one witness found the victim unconscious and another bystander saw the victim's body lying in a pool of blood; neither person rendered aid or contacted authorities.

In both of the above cases, most people would agree that both victims were in jeopardy of severe bodily harm. Thus, any person - with a CPL or not - could have used force, perhaps even deadly force, to come to the aid of the victims. At the very least someone could have made a 9-1-1 phone call.

Other cases, however, may not be so easy to reconcile under the law. For example, if a CPL licensee witnesses a woman being violently beaten by her "significant other" in a domestic situation, should he intervene?

Domestic violence (DV) is a despicable crime. The violators of this crime should be severely punished for their transgressions. However, the ugly reality of today's world is that many DV victims do not want any penalties levied against their attackers, er, loved ones. Perhaps, the abuser is the sole wage earner. What ever the case, they will bend over backwards to sabotage the prosecution: not press charges, fail to testify, etc.

Now, after learning and knowing all of this, why would or should another person intervene in a third-party DV squabble? An intervention could ultimately lead to the use of deadly force. If an "attacker" in a domestic violence scenario is killed, will the victim be thankful for being rescued or vengeful for having her significant other slain? On whose behalf, will the victim make statements? The defense or the prosecution?

It is for this very reason that Good Samaritan Laws regarding violent attacks should not be enacted. The law should not compel a person to put himself in harm's way to save another. Doing so in some cases could also imperil his freedom. Every person has to decide for himself how he will act when encountering violence being committed against another. At the very least, a witness can make a 9-1-1 call but even that act should not be legislated.

What will you do?

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