Can I Defend Myself in a Texas Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

It’s the holiday season, and that means folks are out hunting for the perfect gift at the local mall and making last-minute trips to the grocery store. It can be hectic, so we wanted to take a moment and share some tips to keep you and your family safe this time of year. As responsible gun owners, we all prepare and practice for that worst-case scenario, and the foundation of responding to any threat or emergency is awareness. Unfortunately, to-do lists, errands, and life can sometimes get in the way of our situational awareness. Carrying a handgun in public is routine for many of us, but it is important to remember not to be complacent.

Apart from the drive to and from the local mall, one of the most dangerous places we can find ourselves is in the parking lot. According to the latest available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 7% of all violent crime occurs in parking lots or garages. The laws of justification and self-defense are applicable in these public spaces, but we should take the time to remind ourselves that our actions must always be reasonable and immediately necessary under the circumstances.

Why bring this up now? It’s because a lack of situational awareness when acting in self-defense or defense of others could make a huge difference if a jury is asked to decide whether or not your actions were reasonable and immediately necessary under the circumstances. What is the takeaway? Slow down, take note of your surroundings, and have a plan in case you have to act. But what if you’re walking back to your car and someone attempts to rob you, or worse yet, they exhibit a deadly weapon in an attempt to commit an aggravated robbery? In both of those cases, the law would give you a powerful legal presumption that your use of force or deadly force would be reasonable and immediately necessary.

Change the facts just slightly. What if, on the walk back to your unoccupied car, you see someone trying to burglarize it? We’ve talked about using deadly force against a burglar in the past, but there are several types of burglary: burglary of a habitation, vehicle, rail car, and even a coin-operated machine. But all burglaries are not created equally. Is it reasonable to use deadly force against someone breaking into an unoccupied car? Probably not. The Justification Statute uses the term burglary in a general sense. It’s largely accepted that deadly force is justified when there’s a burglary into a habitation or a building, but the issue is unresolved when it comes to vehicles. There is no case law on the use of deadly force against someone breaking into an unoccupied vehicle. With that said, don’t do it unless you want to become a test case.

We hope you and your family have a happy and safe holiday season. But, if you have any questions about self-defense in public, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

 

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Can I Defend Myself in a New Jersey Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

With the holidays here, you need to be aware of your surroundings. There are a lot of folks out there that would like to take advantage of you: to steal from you or to even cause you bodily harm. Being aware of your surroundings is very important, and having that situational awareness is a skill that will help protect your life and the lives of your loved ones.

In terms of self-defense, New Jersey is difficult because the laws are so restrictive, and because law-abiding citizens are denied the ability to carry the most effective means of self-defense (that being a firearm).

We don’t really want to be victims, but we also don’t want to violate the law. So, some important things you can do is, of course, try to avoid becoming a victim by being aware of your surroundings.

In addition, there are some things you are allowed to do to protect yourself. They’re limited, but you are allowed to have pepper spray under three-quarters of an ounce. Also, a cell phone can take photographs and videos can often be useful in getting and apprehending a wrongdoer. Short of that, there isn’t much that individuals can do to lawfully defend themselves in New Jersey. That has basically been curtailed by the legislature.

Remain aware of your surroundings and try to avoid any situation where you can sense or feel the danger. Listen to what your mind is telling you about that danger. We have that ability. It’s in us folks. Listen to it and stay safe for the holidays.

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Can I Defend Myself In a Colorado Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

Doug Richards for U.S. LawShield of Colorado, coming to you from our beautiful Denver office. I want to talk to you today about our upcoming holidays and what you can do if you find yourself in a situation where somebody tries to either attack you or steal from you and you are in the mall parking lot. As sad as this is, it does occur quite frequently during this time of year.

Thieves and bandits and scammers. They know that you are more likely to have more cash on you at this time of year, as you go into or out of a mall. They may try to take advantage of that because, after all, they are generally opportunists.

So, what can you do? What should you do? Let’s just imagine you’re in a situation where you have just come out of the mall and you’re putting your child into their car seat: you’ve got some packages on the ground or in your trunk and the trunk is open, and somebody comes up, grabs one of those packages, and runs away. You cannot, and certainly should not, pull your firearm out and shoot at that person or fire up in the air because you cannot use deadly force to defend against a theft of property or damaging of property in Colorado. In other states you are allowed to do that, but in Colorado, you may not use deadly force to defend property.

Imagine a situation that’s a little bit different though, and the person–this bandit–their aggression gets directed towards you and they’re either going to steal a package directly from you, or take money from you, and you feel that you are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury (or another person with you is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury because of this bandit’s actions). You may, in that situation, use self-defense (including deadly force), to defend yourself or that third party.

You will be judged under that reasonable person standard that we’ve talked about so much on other videos. That really asks whether or not your conduct and the amount of force you used under the circumstances was reasonable.

If you’ve got any questions about this or anything else, feel free to call me at my office. I’m always happy to talk to U.S. LawShield members.

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Can I Defend Myself in a Georgia Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

Can you protect yourself in the mall parking lot? Well, a straightforward question deserves a straightforward answer. Yes, you absolutely can protect yourself in the mall parking lot. Not only yourself, however; you can protect any other person to the same extent that he or she could protect himself or herself. Now, in Georgia, the law justifies your use of the threats of force, force, and even deadly force so long as there are sufficient circumstances that will allow you to do so.

Let’s talk about the threats of force and force first. The law justifies your use of the threats of force and force if you have a reasonable belief it is necessary to protect yourself or any other person from an unlawful force. So, if you perceive that you must act by threatening force or using force to protect yourself or any other person from unlawful force or an unwanted touching, the law justifies your action.

Not only that, you can use force which includes deadly force (force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm) if you feel you must act to prevent death or great bodily injury or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. So, if you have a reasonable belief that death or great bodily injury will result if you fail to act, the law justifies your use of deadly force.

Not only that, if you perceive that you must act in order to prevent a forcible felony (some felony that has an element of personal force in it such as armed robbery, murder, rape, and aggravated assault) the law in Georgia justifies your actions. So yes, you can protect yourself in the mall parking lot, but not only yourself, you can protect any other person as well.

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Can I Defend Myself in an Ohio Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

I wanted to talk to you about defending yourself while out and about this holiday season. Obviously, Christmas brings with it the inevitable shopping season. And while many of you might be like me and do as much of your shopping from the convenient confines of your own home, many of you still enjoy heading out to the malls and shops to get the full experience. If you are so brave, then situational awareness is a must. In layman’s terms, it boils down to knowing what’s going on around you at all times and then using that information to make decisions.

So you might be asking yourself, “Why am I talking about this? I thought we were talking about Christmas.” Well, when you’re out and about in all of that chaos which is the Christmas shopping season, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Not everyone is full of cheer, after all. Thefts and assaults in mall parking lots are not uncommon.

And remember, it’s winter time. It’s cold. People’s emotions and mental well-being are taxed around this time of year and you never know what’s going on in their head. Some people may simply be looking for a handout, and may be aggressive about it. Some may want to use force in taking your newly purchased gifts as you exit the store and return to your car. And some may otherwise be contemplating some level of random violence.

Regardless of the situation, you can always use force to defend yourself. The level of force will be determined by the situation. Let’s focus on the mall parking lot as our example. You’ve traveled around all day buying things from different stores, and you park and enter the mall, your backseat now full of bags. When you exit the store, you find someone in your vehicle attempting to steal your packages. Maybe they’ve even broken out the window to gain access. You cannot use your firearm and deadly force to protect property in the State of Ohio. So if you find someone stealing packages from your car, you cannot shoot them to prevent the theft.

If the confrontation with them turns violent, then the situation has shifted from what began as a property crime to one now of assault, and deadly force may be justified (again, depending on the circumstance). Remember, you may use basic physical force to stop someone from stealing your property, just not deadly force. If it isn’t a property crime, but an assault situation, then Ohio’s Self-Defense Law dictates only the amount of force necessary to prevent the assault may be used. And you can never use deadly force unless you have that bonafide belief that you’re going to be killed or suffer great bodily harm.

All that being said, always remember to be aware of your surroundings, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

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Can I Defend Myself in a Florida Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

The holidays are fast approaching and U.S. LawShield wishes all of our members a safe and wonderful holiday season. The holidays are not just a joyous occasion for the law-abiding citizen, but also for the criminals who take advantage of the season. Criminals know that people are distracted during this time of year with shopping and all the festivities the holidays bring with them. That is why it is extremely important to remain alert and aware of your environment at all times. This is especially important as we’re out doing holiday shopping, as there is no better opportunity for a criminal to attack than when we’re walking out in a mall parking lot at night, loaded down with shopping bags.

Always stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings in a parking lot. But, if you find yourself the prey of a criminal, it is equally important to know what the law allows you to do in order to protect yourself. Under Florida Law, a person is justified in using or threatening to use non-deadly force if he or she feels that such force is needed to prevent the imminent unlawful use of force by the attacker. Furthermore, you are allowed to use non-deadly force to protect your property. In order to be justified using or threatening to use deadly force, you must reasonably believe that such is needed to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another person.

You are also justified in using deadly force if such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony such as an aggravated assault, robbery, or sexual battery. Let’s apply the law to the typical holiday parking lot robbery. Imagine you are walking to your car loaded down with bags after a long day of shopping. As you approach your car, someone rushes you and tries to take your shopping bags or your purse from you.

Would you be justified in using non-deadly or deadly force to stop the attack? Without a doubt, you are justified in using non-deadly force. The attacker is touching you without your permission and is trying to take your property. You would be allowed to use non-deadly force to stop the attack and to protect your property.

So what about using deadly force? It will all come down to whether it is reasonable to believe death or great bodily harm is going to occur or if such force is necessary to stop the forcible felony of robbery. If the attacker has a weapon such as a knife or a gun, then there is no question you would be justified in using deadly force. However, if the attacker does not have a weapon, the question becomes more difficult to answer. If a weapon is not involved then other factors such as size, age, disability, the amount of force the attacker uses, and other factors surrounding the attack will become factors for the jury to determine if your actions were reasonable and necessary. Once the robbery is over with then you will no longer be justified in using deadly force.

However, although I do not advise it, you would be allowed to use non-deadly force to try and take back your property. Remember, just because you have the legal right to do something does not mean you should. No property is worth risking your life.

If you have any questions regarding the use of non-deadly or deadly force in Florida or any other self-defense related question, please give U.S. LawShield a call and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney. Have a safe holiday season.

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Can I Defend Myself In a North Carolina Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

During the Christmas season, many of us are out visiting loved ones or doing Christmas shopping in both the day and the night. This month, I want to talk about being aware of your surroundings and your right to defend yourself in public places where you might be this Christmas season.

When you’re out shopping, be aware of your surroundings and others’ behavior, particularly if you are shopping at night. Remember, while it is the Christmas season, criminals do not take off for the holidays.

In a public place in North Carolina, you have a right to defend yourself just like you do on your own property. If you have a reasonable belief that you are facing imminent death or serious bodily harm, you have the right to use deadly force to protect yourself. That includes the right to use your firearm to protect yourself. Imminent threat means an immediate threat—it does not mean a conditional or a future threat.

Now, if you are in a public place and you are faced with a non-deadly threat, you may still defend yourself, but you may not use deadly force. That means you may defend yourself with a punch, a shove, or a push, but you may not use a deadly weapon to defend yourself.

If you are in a public place where you have a legal right to be, you are not required to retreat. You may stand your ground and defend yourself. If you are in the parking lot of a store where you’re doing your Christmas shopping, you are in a place where you have a legal right to be and therefore you have no duty to retreat.

For example, if you are faced with an armed gunman in a parking lot of a store where you’ve been doing your shopping, you may defend yourself with your firearm and you are not required to flee or retreat.

In all situations though, be careful and protect yourself and others from harm. If you have to defend yourself or if you have been threatened, remember to immediately call 911.

So be careful this Christmas season, and be aware of your surroundings and your legal rights to protect yourself and your family. Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

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Can I Defend Myself in an Oklahoma Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

I want to talk to you today about situational awareness during the upcoming shopping season, which also includes the sale days after Christmas.

It is very important that when you exit the shopping areas in shopping malls, you are situationally aware of the condition, the weather, and people’s position in relation to you between the exit of the shopping mall and your automobile where you’re parked.

It is more important to be situationally aware when you’re in an underground or covered parking, because those areas tend to be darker and there are people lurking about, sometimes with nefarious purposes.

Please be aware that in the State of Oklahoma, we have Stand Your Ground Laws. Stand Your Ground Laws mean that you are allowed to use reasonable force with reasonable force, up to and including deadly force. That means using a firearm or a knife to defend yourself or your loved ones if the situation calls for such drastic action.

Many times, a taser or a bottle of pepper spray is sufficient to ward off a potential mugger, attacker, or robber who may go off to find easier prey. Please be aware that your use of force must be justified by the circumstances and you may be afraid, but fear is not enough in Oklahoma. It must be reasonable in light of the circumstances, and the Reasonable Man Rule applies whenever you have to defend yourself using reasonable force or deadly force.

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Can I Defend Myself In a Virginia Mall Parking Lot?

The following is a video transcript.

Hi, Ed Riley, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Virginia. Can I defend myself in the mall parking lot? Virginia is a Stand Your Ground State, which means that if you did not start the fight or provoke the incident in any way, then you can stand your ground and defend yourself against your attacker without having to retreat.

If you are without fault in provoking or bringing on the fight, and you reasonably fear that you are in imminent danger of being killed or in imminent danger of great bodily harm, and you use no more force than is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm under the circumstances as they appear to you, then your use of deadly force in self-defense is legally justified.

The test of whether your fear was sufficiently reasonable to justify acting in self-defense is based upon your subjective point of view. The perceived danger must be imminent and must be manifested by an overt act. The existence of imminent danger is determined from your point of view at the time you used deadly force to defend yourself. In the context of self-defense, imminent danger is defined as an immediate real threat to one’s safety. There must be some menacing act presenting peril.

The act must be of such a character as to afford a reasonable ground for believing there is a design to do some serious bodily harm—an imminent danger of carrying such design into immediate execution. Whether imminent danger existed or not will depend on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Threats or words alone will not justify the taking of a life prior to an overt act. The bare fear of serious bodily injury or even death, however well-grounded, will not justify the taking of human life. There must also be some overt act indicative of imminent danger at the time. There must be some overt act from the alleged attacker before the danger becomes imminent.

On the other hand, if you are partially at fault in starting or provoking the fight or confrontation, then Virginia law requires you to retreat as far as you safely can before you are permitted to use what is called “Excusable Self-Defense,” if you are at least some degree at fault in provoking or bringing on the fight. You must:

  1. Retreat as far as you safely can under the circumstances in a good faith attempt to abandon the fight;
  2. Make known your desire for peace by word or act;
  3. Be reasonably afraid under the circumstances, as they appear to you, that you were in immediate danger of being killed or that you are in imminent danger of great bodily harm; and
  4. Use no more force under the circumstances as they appear to you than was reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm.

Then your use of deadly force and self-defense is legally excused.

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Can I Defend Myself in a Pennsylvania Mall Parking Lot?

 

The following is a video transcript.

Do you go out holiday shopping? I don’t know a lot of people that do. But just in case you do, I think it would be smart for us to talk a little bit about holiday shopping and that time of year, because bad things happen and evil people don’t care that it’s December 25th—they just do bad things the way they do them.

What we need to do is to always sit back and be very aware. The tagline that’s used in the industry is “situational awareness.” That means you have to be oriented to people, places, and things. Keep your head on a swivel; you can’t just keep your head buried in your phone. Whatever it is that’s on your phone can wait until you get home safely.

This is what the bad guys are looking for: people that are not paying attention. That makes you very easy prey for them. That’s 90% of the people out there these days, especially this time of year.

So we have to be situationally aware, we have to look for our pre-indicators: is the person picking at their waistline, do they have high elbows, do they have no cover for action, no cover for status, meaning that they’re just loitering around? Situational awareness: we want to avoid problems offensively. If you see something bad or you get a bad heebie-jeebie about someone, you don’t have to go and confirm that they’re a bad guy. In fact, prudence would dictate that you use run fu, not kung fu.

So situational awareness is very important, not only during the holiday season but 24/7. Look before you cross the street, and pretend like everywhere that you’re going is like crossing the street. Keep your head on that swivel.

One of the other questions that comes into play is self-defense and the difference between what some people would frame as public self-defense versus private self-defense. Is there a difference? There is, but it’s very subtle and it’s very small.

What is universal between both of them? You are authorized to use non-lethal force if you reasonably believe, under the totality of the circumstances, that it’s imminent for bodily harm to occur. And bodily injury or bodily harm means a punch.

That’s to be contrasted with deadly force, when lethal force is authorized under the law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Lethal force is, of course, only authorized if it is reasonable for you, under the totality of the circumstances, to be in imminent fear of serious bodily injury, which is something that would take you to the hospital and probably keep you in the hospital, such as kidnapping, sexual assault, or death.

That presumption of reasonableness is a very important legal standard that means you’re presumed to have acted correctly, and the government has to disprove that beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now, there is no difference between Stand Your Ground law between private, meaning inside a house, versus public. You have to be in lawful possession of a firearm, you have to be allowed to be where you are located, and the person has to display an item that is capable of serious bodily injury or death.

So that’s some discussion about situational awareness and self-defense, both in private and in public.

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