You can use force to protect your property in Missouri. However, you cannot use deadly force to protect your property. It’s a very important distinction to understand.
Using Deadly Force
You may use deadly force if there is an imminent threat of deadly force being used against you or a third party. If property is the only matter at stake—for instance, let’s say you walk out your front door and you see someone trying to break into your car—you cannot shoot them. You’ll very likely go to jail if you do.
Now, what about the Castle Doctrine? In Missouri, we do have something that we might call the Castle Doctrine, which provides that if you are in your home and someone breaks into your home to commit a forcible felony, you can use deadly force to protect yourself. It will be assumed that you were correct in using that deadly force within your home if someone breaks in in the course of committing a felony.
Stand Your Ground
Now, what is the Stand Your Ground law? If you are in a public place you do not have a duty to retreat. You can stand your ground and protect yourself. If someone is trying to use deadly force against you, you can use deadly force against them. However, there must be a direct threat against you and not just your property.
Let’s say you’ve placed your book bag down on a park bench and you’re standing several feet away. Someone runs over and grabs that book bag and starts to run with it. You cannot shoot that person. You’ll end up in prison.
What you can do is use reasonable force. What would reasonable force be under those circumstances? It differs from person to person and situation to situation. The clear rule is that the force that you use cannot be deadly force.
Let’s use three examples: burglary, robbery, and theft. If you’re in your home and someone breaks into that home and approaches you, and you’re in fear that deadly force is going to be used against you. Are you justified in using deadly force to protect yourself? Yes. In fact, it will be presumed that because you were in your home and that person was not supposed to be there, they were in the course of committing a felony, and that you used force appropriately.
What about a situation where you are walking in the park and someone mugs you? You’re being robbed. Can you use deadly force to protect yourself? If you have a reasonable belief that deadly force is about to be inflicted upon you, you would then be justified to use deadly force against that person, the aggressor, the attacker. However, if that person is clearly only going for your property you can only use reasonable force to protect yourself and not deadly force.
Now, let’s say you’re walking in the park and you’ve set your laptop down on a park bench. If you see someone grab that laptop and start to run, you cannot use deadly force against them. You can only use reasonable force to try and protect your property.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.