Commonwealth v. Donahue

148 Mass. 529



Even where a considerable time had elapsed between the wrongful taking of the defendant's property and the assault, the defendant has a right to regain possession by reasonable force, after demand upon the third person in possession, in like manner as he might have protected it without civil liability.


The victim went to the defendant to collect on a debt he was owed. The defendant offered either a sum of money slightly less than what was owed, or the return of the goods. The victim accepted the money then demanded the balance. The defendant then assaulted the victim in an attempt to recover the money he had paid. The defendant claimed he was justified in his use of force because he believed he was recovering his property.


Was the defendant justified in his use of force against the victim?




The court reasoned that the defendant rightfully thought he was defrauded when the victim took the money then demanded more. Thus, the defendant was entitled to use reasonable force to reclaim his property. It further held that the defendant was entitled to a determination of whether the force was excessive under the circumstances.

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