The Champion

April 2009 , Page 45 

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Instructing on the Objective Reasonable Person Standard

By Thomas Lundy

The objective reasonable person standard is, of course, prominent in the civil arena when tort-negligence is at issue. However, this standard is also important in criminal cases. The objective standard is used to evaluate defense theories such as self-defense, duress, and provocation/heat of passion. Moreover, the reasonable person standard may apply to the knowledge or belief elements of certain offenses or prosecution theories. This discussion attempts to identify potential defense theories subject to the reasonable person standard and how the reasonable person jury instructions may be modified or supplemented in light of these defense theories.

I. Reasonable Person Standard as Applied to Self-Defense

In criminal cases the reasonable person standard may become an issue when the accused relies on affirmative defenses such as self-defense. For example, in most jurisdictions the case law and statutory law on self-defense generally require that the defendant’s belief in the necessity of us

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