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.

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