Dennis R. Boren
Protecting My Things: Can I SHOOT Them?
This is Dennis Boren, criminal defense attorney and former felony prosecutor. Today, I want to talk about using force and deadly force to protect your property. Now I’m talking about real estate, whether you own it or rent it, or anything that’s movable.
WHEN CAN YOU USE FORCE (BUT NOT DEADLY FORCE)?
You can use force, not deadly force, but force to regain possession of property or prevent its being taken if it’s immediate. Now, if it’s during daylight hours, you can use force as far as theft is concerned. If it’s at night, you can use deadly force. We’re going to talk a little bit more about deadly force here in a minute.
You could also use force if somebody has dispossessed you of land, if they’ve used a threat or fraud. However, if you’ve been evicted and there’s a court order, you’re not going to be in the same situation. You cannot use force in this circumstance.
Frankly, you can be mistaken about the situation as long as it’s reasonable. That just means another person is situated in your similar circumstances and could believe that they are being dispossessed of property that they own.
WHEN CAN YOU USE DEADLY FORCE?
Now, let’s talk about deadly force. As I mentioned, you can use deadly force to prevent theft if it’s at night, but not during the day. However, anytime you believe that there’s an imminent commission of either burglary, robbery, or theft, at night, or some other crime like assault, aggravated assault or murder or any kind of crime involving a possible homicide, you can certainly use deadly force.
That just means you can use deadly weapons like a gun or other things that can be used as deadly weapons like a vehicle to run over somebody or to distract them. You can also use deadly force to prevent somebody from fleeing that has committed the things I mentioned above. It has to be immediate though. You can’t be waiting around and thinking about it. You need to be in hot pursuit, so to speak.
You also need to believe this is the only reasonable way to accomplish what we just talked about, that there just was no obvious other way to do it. Now, if any judge or jury is going to consider your situation, what would they do? And that is really the reasonable standard.
Also, you can use deadly force to recover land or property, if you think not doing so would expose you to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death. So that’s the other circumstance where you can use it.
As I always tell you, if you’re in a situation where you have questions about this or you just want to know more, please reach out to me. I’ll be happy to respond.
And remember, that if you’re ever dealing with a police officer or any law enforcement, the best practice is to turn on your video camera on your smartphone and record what’s going on because that will definitely protect you. I hope this was helpful.