The time for holiday shopping and family get-together preparations is about to reach its summit. People are rushing to and from their vehicles with hardly a second glance at their surroundings. One distracted moment is all a criminal needs to get into your vehicle to steal your belongings, or worse, make you the victim of an assault or robbery. Situational awareness is key: be mindful of your surroundings, gravitate toward lit areas in parking lots, scan the area for any possible threat, and have a plan in mind for retreat or cover. But what happens when a law-abiding gun owner finds themselves in the sights of a criminal?
During the holiday season, many holiday shoppers are caught unaware by theft, robbery, or burglary of their vehicles. It is critical that you, as a law-abiding gun owner, understand what legal response is allowable and justified for each of these criminal actions before you find yourself in the middle of one of these terrifying incidents.
Understanding Justified Use of Force
Especially if you carry a handgun, knowing the law on the justified use of force and deadly force to prevent a crime will help you develop a plan before an incident takes place. Theft, robbery, and burglary are all too common around the holidays. We don’t want you to become a victim, so let’s address each of these.
Let’s imagine that you’re walking out of a store after shopping for presents. It’s late, but the parking lot is still pretty full of last-minute holiday shoppers. You push your cart across the lot while practicing situational awareness. The cart is just loaded with bags of presents you’ve bought for your family and friends. Upon reaching your car, you let go of the cart and begin searching for your keys. Just then, a person appears out of nowhere, grabs a few of the bags from the cart, and starts running away. This is known as “theft.” Theft occurs when a perpetrator acts with intent to deprive an owner of the possession, use, or benefit of the owner’s property or services by exerting unauthorized control over an owner’s property or by obtaining control of an owner’s property through deception or threat. Generally, theft alone with no other aggravating factors does not justify the use of deadly force.
Let’s change our earlier scenario. This time, the parking lot is pretty empty, save for a cluster of cars where you’re parked. As you reach your car and begin searching for your keys, a masked man appears from behind the car. He tells you quietly that you can either let him walk away with the shopping cart, or he’ll kill you. This is what is known as “robbery.” Robbery occurs when a perpetrator knowingly takes property from the person or presence of another by force or by threat of bodily harm to any person. As you can see, robbery, as opposed to theft, creates a risk of serious bodily injury or death. In the State of Kansas you may use force, but not deadly force, to protect property.
Let’s switch our scenario once more. This time, your car is at the very edge of all those that are parked in the lot. As you’re approaching it, you notice that the back, passenger-side window has been shattered. Droplets of glass are on the pavement and someone is rummaging around in the back seat, where you put the bags from your shopping trip earlier in the afternoon. This is what the law calls “burglary.”
Burglary is, without authority, entering into or remaining within any dwelling, building, manufactured home, mobile home, tent, or other structure which is not a dwelling, vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, railroad car, or other means of conveyance of persons or property, with intent to commit a felony, theft, or sexually motivated crime therein. Aggravated burglary is burglary committed when a person is present in any of the above places.
Kansas law provides that in the prevention or termination of an unlawful entry into or attack upon any dwelling, place of work, or occupied vehicle, a presumption arises that deadly force against the aggressor is reasonable and necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the defender, if the defender knows of the unlawful entry or attack or the aggressor has forcefully removed or is attempting to forcefully remove another person against such other person’s will from one of those places.
Armed with situational awareness and an understanding of the self-defense laws in Kansas, you can protect yourself from the criminal element and keep yourself on the right side of the law this holiday season.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.