Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Welcome members and fellow gun owners. In the last Members Voice video our member Tyler witnessed a criminal breaking into his car. Tyler drew his gun and the bad guys ran away.

The legal questions started pouring in, and members, you wanted to know your legal rights in your state. So here’s your U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney to give you insight on what the law says.

U.S. Law Shield of Georgia Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo:

Can you use force to defend your motor vehicle? Well the law can be very complex and confusing here in Georgia. Let’s begin with a few definitions. First let’s talk about a habitation.

In Georgia there are three places that are habitations: Where you live, where you work, and how you get to where you live and work. Georgia law defines your home, your place of business, and your motor vehicle as habitations.

Georgia law also allows you to use the threat of force, force, and deadly force to protect your habitation. Threats of force: Get out of my home! The use of force: Anything short of deadly force. And in fact deadly force: That force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm. You can use deadly force to protect your habitation if you have a reasonable belief that another person has entered your habitation for the purpose of committing a felony.

So let’s talk about someone burglarizing your car in your driveway. What can you do? What kind of force can you use to stop them? Certainly you can use the threats of force and force. Can you use deadly force? Well remember, your car is a habitation. Georgia law allows you to use deadly force to protect your habitation from someone committing a felony inside it. Based on Georgia law, there’s a very strong argument that you can use deadly force to keep someone from burglarizing your vehicle.

Now we’re talking about you being outside the vehicle and someone getting into the vehicle. Certainly if you’re in the vehicle and this bad guy’s trying to get in with you, yes, you’re justified, because you’re protecting yourself and your family. You’re protecting whoever’s in the car. But if we’re outside the vehicle, bad guy’s outside the vehicle, can you use deadly force to keep him from committing a felony in the vehicle i.e. burglary? You know burglary in Georgia, the second degree burglary, can be entering a vehicle to commit a felony. Well according to the law, since your car is your habitation, you can use deadly force to protect your habitation to prevent the commission of a felony inside your habitation.

So from a legal perspective, it’s entirely possible that you could be justified in using deadly force against someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle.

From a public-policy perspective, and from perhaps the district attorney’s perspective, you may very well be charged with a crime if you injure that person, because just because you have that right, doesn’t necessarily mean that the district attorney agrees with you.

And in fact if you ask two lawyers the same question: “Can I use deadly force to protect my car from a burglary?” You’re going to get two different answers. One lawyer is going to say “Well sure, car’s your habitation you can use deadly force to protect your habitation.” The second lawyer is going to go “No no no no. Your car’s your property.”

Well I think the law is pretty clear that your car is a habitation, but I don’t think it’s going to keep you from being charged if you hurt someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle.

Let’s look at it from a practical standpoint though.

Let’s say you’re in your home. You look out the window. You see someone burglarizing your vehicle. Are you going to leave your position of safety? Are you going to give up your position of advantage to go outside and confront this person? Or are you going to call the police and let the police do their job?

I think prudence and common sense would say, yes, we let the police do the job. That’s what we pay them for. That’s why they’re here, to protect us. I do think if you decide to take that step and go outside, you’re giving up your position of advantage, or giving up your position of safety, and you’re putting yourself in an unreasonable situation without justification, but if you do that and you do fire on someone, the law could in fact protect you. But it may not keep you from being arrested.

Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Educating you is the cornerstone of U.S. Law Shield. Thank you for being a part of our family.