Colorado Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

Doug Richards from U.S. LawShield of Colorado, coming to you from our beautiful Denver office. I want to talk to you today about the upcoming Halloween holiday and what you should do or what you can do if you find somebody vandalizing your property, because “Trick or Treat” is the saying.

If you end up with some tricksters or some pranksters in your front yard or on your property and they’re vandalizing, you should know that in Colorado, you may not use deadly force if you’re only protecting property, personal property. You may, however, use deadly force if the person who’s vandalizing your personal property or private property does something to make you fear for your own safety or someone else’s safety. Just their vandalism in and of itself is not enough for you to use our self-defense statutes deadly force. They would have to be doing something in addition that causes you or somebody else around you to fear for their life and their safety.

Let’s put this into motion. Let’s just assume it’s Halloween, and some kids come in and come up to your property and kick in your pumpkin and you come outside onto your property, on your deck, and you point a firearm at them or you fire it in the air, or do something like that. If those are the facts, you’re going to go to jail. If, however, because of the amount of people involved, and their height or size or the apparent weight, or the way that they were dressed, and they had masks, and they had apparent weapons, and you thought that they were going to turn those weapons on you or things that they were saying to you, if any of these things occur, you start to end up in a situation where you can use self-defense because now you’re defending yourself or a third party, not the personal property.

All of this underscores the need for you to immediately ask for an attorney and not try to do any of this talking on your own because you’re much more likely to talk yourself out of one of our self-defense statutes than being able to talk your way into it.

Best thing you can do if you’re in a situation where the police are asking questions about your use of deadly force is to politely ask for an attorney, and we discuss what to do in that situation in other videos.

Finally, if you’re thinking that the castle doctrine is going to protect you against any situation that happens on your property, you would be wrong. The Castle Doctrine only provides immunity in a situation where there is something that happens inside of your house, not outside of your house, like on your front lawn or on your deck. Obviously, the Castle Doctrine, and we’ve discussed this in other videos, it’s extremely fact-specific. So, again, if you’re in a situation where you think that the Castle Doctrine might apply, don’t try to explain that to a police officer. Let me do that for you.

As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else, feel free to call me at my office. Thank you.

Georgia Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

It’s time for the well-honored traditions of Halloween, and the slightly less well-known, but still often celebrated Mischief Night, the night before Halloween, when many turn to tricks and sometimes even vandalism. Now, as we all know, sometimes tricks come with the treats. So, one of the questions we must answer is that on Mischief Night, or on Halloween, where is the line of defense? How can you protect yourself and your property?

Now, we all know that we can use a firearm or really any other weapon to protect ourselves and other people, if we have a reasonable belief that it’s necessary to protect against death, great bodily injury, or the commission of a forcible felony. This holds true on Halloween as well.

If you have a weapons carry license, you can carry a handgun when trick-or-treating. You can carry it openly or concealed. But what about on your own property? When we talk about property, we’re going to talk about two different types. We’re going to talk about real property, and we’re going to talk about personal property.

Your home is your habitation. We’re not really talking about your home because we know we can protect ourselves inside our own home. We’re talking about personal property-your yard displays, your pumpkins, anything that you put out to celebrate the holiday-as well as your real property, personal property and real property.

What is real property? Real property is that property that your home sits upon; your front yard, your driveway, your backyard; and you can use threats of force, force, and even deadly force to protect that, under certain circumstances.

The law is separating real property from habitations, and from personal property, dealing only with your real property. Let’s say your front yard, you can use the threats of force or force, against a trespasser, or one who attempts to commit some type of criminal interference with your real property.

What about the use of deadly force? Deadly force is only authorized to protect real property, when you have a reasonable belief that it’s necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. The only time you can use deadly force to protect your real property- your yard, your driveway, the property your home sits upon-is when you have a reasonable belief it’s necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony on that property- murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault.

The theft of a pumpkin or the smashing of a yard display would not constitute that type of forcible felony that would allow you to use deadly force. As a matter of fact, in Georgia, there are cases that say you cannot shoot a trespasser, but you can use threats of force or force, to eject a trespasser from your property. This is for your real property. Again, that’s your yard, the property your home sits upon. Remember also what we’ve said about the use of force to protect yourself, or any other person. If you perceive that death or great bodily injury will result if you fail to act, you’re justified in the use of deadly force. If you act to prevent the commission of a forcible felony, you’re justified in the use of deadly force.

The law in Georgia does allow you to protect your home, your car, your place of business, your habitation, but also your real property. It allows you to protect your property on Halloween, or on Mischief Night. When you go out trick or treating, it allows you to carry a firearm to protect yourself, so long as you follow the rules. Now, perhaps most importantly, please remember, not only at Halloween, but at any time, all firearm safety rules must be strictly observed.

Never display a firearm in an inappropriate or an unsafe manner. And please, do not use a real firearm as a costume prop. Be smart and have a Happy Halloween.

Missouri Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

As we enter into the fall and the holidays approach, there’s a lot to look forward to. However, with the holidays can also come some mischief–pumpkin smashing, destruction of decorations. What are your rights as a citizen to protect your property?

Now, in Missouri, the law does not authorize the use of deadly force to protect property. Only reasonable force can be used to protect property. If someone is smashing your pumpkins and you shoot that person, you will very likely be going to prison. I recommend calling the police if you’re the victim of holiday mischief.

What are your rights if you are out, say, with your children trick-or-treating? If you’re going from house to house, can you have your firearm with you? The answer to that question depends on whether or not you have a concealed carry permit. If you have a concealed carry permit in the state of Missouri, you can carry your firearm anywhere without penalty of crime. Let’s say your neighbors do not want you to carry a firearm with you. If you carry a firearm onto their private property, and you’re a concealed carry permit holder, you won’t be charged with a crime. On a first offense, if you refuse to leave, you can be cited for trespassing with a maximum fine of $100.00.

Now, if you’re carrying under Missouri’s permitless carry law, and you carry onto private property you could be charged with a crime. So, again, the advantage to having a concealed carry permit, is you cannot be charged with a crime for carrying onto private property, such as when you’re going trick-or-treating.

Pennsylvania Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

I don’t know about you, but I really like Halloween. Seeing all those happy kids with all their Power Rangers, and all that great stuff. But sometimes, we don’t like what the teenagers do, specifically smashing pumpkins or stealing decorations. It always comes into question of where’s the line, what can I do?

So, I’m going to give you some really, really simple advice. Whenever you point a gun at someone, or brandish it, or bring it out, or display it, or anything like that, you have to step back and say, “Is what that person is doing, is it worthy of death?” As horrible as it is– because you know you worked hard at decorating, and this one’s really special because it’s the kid’s first Halloween, or you have an eight-year-old and they spent a lot of time on the pumpkin and you know they’re going be absolutely horrified to find the pumpkin was destroyed–vengeance is not yours. You can’t pull out a gun and start shooting up the place, or people are threatened, or even say, “I’m going to go get my gun.” Those are crimes.

When it comes to stolen decorations, if you see someone grabbing something off your front porch, you can’t draw down, you can’t point, you definitely can’t shoot in that situation. It is never an authorized use of lethal, deadly force. And that’s what pointing a gun is, to defend property in Pennsylvania. So again, think, “Is this worthy of the death penalty?”

Can you carry while trick or treating? The answer to that in Pennsylvania is yes, absolutely. No problem, no issue. Just because it’s Halloween, it doesn’t invalidate all the other laws. So, there’s all the normal restrictions that we have every other day of the year, when it comes to concealed carry. You can’t say, “Hey, it’s Halloween, I’m allowed to conceal carry,” when you don’t have a license to carry a firearm. It doesn’t mean former felons can just start carrying a firearm because it’s part of their costume or something like that.

There’s nothing magical other than the smile of a kid on Halloween, when it comes to firearms law in Pennsylvania.

Ohio Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

Can I use my firearm to defend my home or property? How about while I’m out trick-or-treating with my kids or grandkids? Generally, there isn’t going to be anything different regardless of the fact that it’s Halloween. The State of Ohio doesn’t change anything based on the day or special activity, nor can local municipalities do anything to infringe upon your state given right to carry your loaded firearm during Halloween activities.

So first of all, let’s talk about defending property because as we all know, Halloween is a time where some people, usually teenagers, take the opportunity to cause damage or commit thefts from houses or businesses around the area. It certainly can be more than a little distressing to come out one morning and find all of your pumpkins smashed or your decorations destroyed or even stolen. While we try to make sense of the why, we must remember that in the State of Ohio you can never use deadly force to protect property.

So, don’t let your emotions overcome you and cloud your judgment. If you hear vandals outside and you confront them, do not act in a rash fashion and threaten to use deadly force to prevent the activity because you will quickly find yourself in a serious legal predicament. Even if they are streaming toilet paper through your trees or have a pumpkin over their head, ready to smash it to the ground, use restraint. Obviously, call the police and take whatever other non-deadly measures you find appropriate and safe for you and your family. The pumpkins and decorations are simply not worth being arrested and prosecuted for a serious criminal offense.

Now how about trick-or-treating? Well, you certainly can carry your concealed firearm with a permit to do so or open carry if you do not have a permit. Both are legal in the State of Ohio. There are no special restrictions, as I said, simply because it’s Halloween. All the same rules apply, and you must not use or display your weapon in a manner unwarranted by the situation. You must still have that important, bonafide belief that you are going to suffer potential death or great bodily harm before you can display and use your firearm. That being said, you can protect yourself and others just as if it was any other day.

On a side note, remember that children are obviously going to be out and about while trick-or-treating activities are going on, so extra precautions should be taken when we carry and potentially decide to use our firearms.

Oklahoma Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

This is Robert Robles, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield in the State of Oklahoma. I’d like to talk to you about Halloween night or Mischief Night, as it’s sometimes called in the northeast part of the country. Can you defend your house, car, your land, any of your decorations, and property from the negative pranks played by trick-or-treaters?

Yes, you can use reasonable force and yes, you can use deadly force. However, you can only use deadly force if your home, which is occupied by you, or your car, which is occupied by you, is attacked in a way to set it on fire. This is called arson. If you are on your occupied front yard and you see your pumpkins being smashed, your windows being broken, things like that, your car being vandalized, your trees being vandalized, you can only use reasonable force to defend your property in those instances.

Now, then, let’s move on to what is reasonable force. Reasonable force is less than deadly force, depending on the circumstances. You could use your fists or your voice. You could throw missiles, rocks, or projectiles, as long as it’s not a deadly force situation like a spear or a knife. You could use deadly force in very limited situations, such as a firearm, and it is defined as calculated to cause death or serious bodily injury. In that instance, you may use deadly force only when your life is threatened, or when your occupied home or your occupied vehicle is being attacked.

Carrying while trick-or-treating personally or accompanying a trick-or-treater is allowed in the state of Oklahoma when you have a concealed carry license. There are exceptions for not having a concealed carry license in the state of Oklahoma, which would be if you’re in the military, or if you have a driver’s license from another state that allows constitutional carry such as Kansas, Missouri, Vermont. The list is about 20-some odd states long. Otherwise, you need to have a concealed carry license while carrying.

There is an exception that if you’re on your own private land, you can carry a firearm without a license.

North Carolina Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

Well, it’s almost that time of year again, when little ones and sometimes not-so-little-ones dress up as their favorite monster, superhero, or literary character and go house-to-house to fill up their candy bags. Yes, I’m talking about Halloween. In many ways, it is a fun night. In other ways, it can be very frustrating, particularly if the treats you give aren’t good enough to keep the tricksters away.

Unfortunately, it is a time when many people engage in acts of vandalism. Sometimes the acts are minor such as rolling a tree with toilet paper and sometimes the acts are more serious, including the destruction or theft of property. It’s not uncommon for jack-o-lanterns to be smashed or for decorations to be damaged, or even stolen from you.

Under North Carolina law, if someone is damaging your property, you have the right to protect your property, and if they’ve taken your property, you have the right to retrieve it. But there is a limit to the amount of force that can be used. North Carolina law strictly prohibits the use of deadly force in the protection of property. Any non-deadly force that is used must be reasonable given the circumstances.

If this has been a problem for you in the past, or if you simply want to avoid it becoming a problem, I suggest that you put some signs in your yard that say that video surveillance is in use in the area where you anticipate damage. And that is whether or not you actually have such surveillance ability.

What about your right to carry firearms when trick-or-treating? There’s no North Carolina law that prohibits the carrying of a concealed firearm by a permit holder or even open carry by a non-permit holder. However, note that under North Carolina law, it is illegal for any person who is at least 16 years of age to go about in any public way while wearing a mask. Public ways include any lanes, walkways, alleys, streets, roads or highways.

Finally, please remember to be extra careful if you go out in public with your firearm on Halloween. Things aren’t always as they seem. Some costumes, and particularly some props, can be quite convincing.

Here’s wishing you and yours a safe and fun Halloween. Thank you.

Virginia Night Terrors: Defending Against Criminal Mischief

The following is a video transcript.

Hi. Ed Riley, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Virginia. Can I trick-or-treat and carry my firearm? Here are a few tips on how to be ready and stay safe for Halloween.

Tip one: Don’t be startled if trick-or-treaters come onto your property and/or knock on your door this Halloween. As we all know, the Halloween celebration often involves trick-or-treaters walking from door to door through the neighborhood, knocking at each door along the way. So be ready and understand that this will likely happen in your community, and be mindful how you are carrying and/or handling your firearm. Be extra careful with your firearm and make sure that it is not being displayed in a frightening manner towards people who may enter your property and/or knock on your door.

Tip two: Can you use a firearm as part of your costume? Well, generally speaking, yes, you can. It is lawful to either open carry a firearm and/or carry a concealed handgun if you possess a concealed handgun permit, so long as you are not attending an event at a location where firearms are forbidden, such as a school or certain government properties.

Tip three: Can you carry your firearm while you are trick-or-treating with the kids? The short answer is, yes, you can. If you have a concealed handgun permit, then you can carry your handgun concealed as you normally would. If you don’t have a concealed handgun permit, or you want to carry a firearm that is not a handgun, then you can open carry. Just make sure you are truly open carrying. Regardless of whether you are carrying open or concealed, you need to be aware of your location. For example, let’s say you have an event at the school, and they are trick-or-treating in the yard of the school or inside of the school itself. You cannot have your firearm in the school building.

Tip four involves the holiday costume, what you are wearing for this event. Virginia does not have any particular statutes that deal directly with Halloween. However, it’s a good idea to be aware of Virginia Code Section 18.2-422, which makes it unlawful for any person over 16 years of age to wear a mask with the intent to conceal his or her identity in public or on private property without written consent from the owner. This section does not apply to persons wearing traditional holiday costumes or those engaged in a theatrical production or masquerade ball.

Tip five involves how to deal with the trick of trick-or-treating, meaning the prankster or those involved in juvenile mischief. You have seen it. It happens every year. Juveniles and/or young adults egg a house, throw toilet paper over a yard, smash a pumpkin, or something along those lines. Acts such as these are clearly pranks, but they can also trigger violations of the trespassing and/or destruction of property laws. You cannot use deadly force to protect against, or in response to, these activities. You also cannot fire a warning shot. You should not even display your firearm because that may very well be a criminal violation. What you have to do in this situation is to call the police and let them handle it. Let them do their job. Otherwise, you run the risk of being charged with some type of criminal offense.

Happy Halloween.

Member Story: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

No good deed, or in this case, “good warning shot” goes unpunished.

Imagine spending two years of your life fighting a charge for defusing a violent fistfight in your front yard. That’s exactly what happened to one LawShield member in 2016.

One evening in the Fall of 2016, a LawShield member went out for dinner with her husband and his brother. Like any family, differences of opinion can arise, and the member’s husband and his brother began an argument on the way home. When they arrived at their residence, the member went inside the home and began to get ready for bed.

The next thing she heard was a loud argument in her front yard. She looked out of her window and saw her husband and his brother locked in a bloody fistfight. She then ran outside and pleaded with the men to stop fighting. They wouldn’t listen.

The member ran back into her bedroom, retrieved her handgun, and walked out of the front door. She again shouted, “Stop fighting.” But they continued brawling. The member, fearing the fight would escalate further, pointed her firearm down to the ground and away from the direction of the men and her neighbors’ homes. She fired directly into the soft ground.

The men immediately stopped fighting. Understandably, a concerned neighbor called the police when he heard the gunshot. The police arrived, rushed their investigation, and instead of arresting either man, arrested the member for deadly conduct; recklessly engaging in conduct that placed another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

There was absolutely no direct, circumstantial, or forensic evidence showing that the member’s shot into the ground placed any person in imminent danger of suffering serious bodily injury. The evidence showed only that the bullet went into the ground, away from any buildings or people.

However, based on the responding officers’ assumptions and misunderstanding of the law, the member was arrested. The member’s nightmare was just beginning. Countless court settings and two years later, prosecutors finally dismissed her case because they couldn’t find any evidence to corroborate the alleged crime.

As you can see, the police and even prosecutors can sometimes misunderstand the facts and the law. Luckily, the member had an Independent Program Attorney armed with the knowledge to defend her and obtain dismissal of her criminal charge.

While this member was reasonable in her actions that night, and ultimately her case was dismissed, you should never fire a warning shot, unless you’re up for a long and hard fight for your freedom.

Staying at an AirBnB. Can They Prohibit My Gun in Texas?

Summer is in full swing and many members are taking vacations. While looking for a place to stay, many are turning to Airbnb as an alternative to hotels. But a question has risen—can an AirBnB owner prohibit my gun? Watch Independent Program Attorney Edwin Walker explain the law in Texas.

You may be thinking that you would rather spend your summer vacation at a quiet private residence rather than a crowded hotel, and are surfing through the available Airbnb or VRBO listings online. The issue of whether or not you can possess a firearm in another person’s house is a generally a matter of private contract law since nearly every state allows a private person to possess a firearm in a structure that is serving as their dwelling even for a short period. Be sure to review your short-term rental agreement closely to see if it restricts the possession of firearms. Further, individuals who use Airbnb are “required to provide notice of and obtain consent for any secured weapons prior to booking, and should use the messaging feature to do so.” In the event that a property owner does not want firearms brought into their homes, the host may cancel the reservation without penalty.

In some circumstances, a person’s possession of firearms on private property could be criminalized. In Texas, if a private property owner does not want an LTC holder to bring in their handgun onto the property, they must provide adequate TPC 30.06 and/or 30.07 criminal trespass notice, this could written into the rental agreement or it could be a posted sign.

Whenever and wherever you are with a firearm always be mindful of the rules and regulations of safe handling and safe storage. Be very mindful to prevent accidental discharges because of the certainty that another’s property will be damaged. Further, whether you are in Texas or another state, most of them have laws prohibiting the reckless storage of firearms where there is the possibility that children may handle them unsupervised.

Finally, one of the most common problems we hear about are folks who have accidentally forgotten to bring home their firearm after a weekend stay. Nothing causes that sinking feeling in your stomach more than a lost firearm. Even if your firearm is found by an honest person who turns it in, it is highly likely that you will have to return to the local of your vacation and prove ownership to the local police in order to have it returned.

Want to learn more information about traveling with your firearm? Download our Travel Guide now. Texas LawShield wishes you safe travels wherever and whenever you may go.