One who goes to the aid of a third person does so at his own peril.
A man was proceeding on 54th Street when he observed two white men, who appeared to be 45 or 50 years old, pulling on a young "colored boy", whom he did not know. The men had nearly pulled the young boys pants off and he was crying. Knowing nothing of what had transpired between the the three men and making no inquiry of anyone, he just came there and pulled one of the white men away from the young boy, hitting him on the head. The white man’s right kneecap was injured. It was only later on that the man found out that the 2 white men were police officers who weren't in uniform and they were assisting an arrest. The trial court convicted him of assault third degree. On appeal, the Appellate Division held that one is not "criminally liable for assault in the third degree if he goes to the aid of another whom he mistakenly, but reasonably, believes is being unlawfully beaten, and thereby injures one of the apparent assaulters.” The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals of New York.
Can a person, who in good faith aggressively intervened in a struggle between 2 people and attempting to effect the lawful arrest of the other person, be properly convicted of assault in the third degree?
The court, holding that a person who went to the aid of a third person did so at his own peril, reversed the court's order. The court refuted the minority rule in other states that one who intervened in a struggle between strangers under the mistaken but reasonable belief that he was protecting another whom he assumed was being unlawfully beaten was exonerated from criminal liability.