The following is a video transcript.
You hear a noise and look out your window to see a hooded figure at your car, about to break the driver’s side window! What do you do? What can you do?
Use of Force
We are often asked this question by U.S. LawShield members who want to know what the laws of defending their property on their property are. The answer to this question is controlled by Florida Statute 776.031.
When your car is parked outside your home and no one is in it, it is just another piece of property, and the use of force laws governing the protection of property apply.
Florida Statute 776.031 reads:
“A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when, and to the extent, that person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on, or other tortious or criminal interference with, either real property other than a dwelling or personal property, lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect. A person who uses or threatens to use force, in accordance with this subsection, does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.”
Note that this law only allows the use of force and not the use of deadly force. Deadly force cannot be used to protect solely property in Florida, with very limited exceptions.
Use of Deadly Force
Florida Statute 776.012(2) allows the use of deadly force to prevent the commission of a forcible felony, including burglary or robbery, which includes a conveyance (meaning your car). However, to justify using deadly force, you must show that it was reasonable and necessary. This analysis will depend upon all of the facts and circumstances. For example, it is quite easy to believe that a jury would find that you should have used force—not deadly force—to stop an unarmed teenager from breaking into your car. On the other end of the spectrum, you would be more likely to be found reasonable if you heard shouting and surprised a gang of heavily armed thieves. If you are in your home and you notice someone stealing your car, it is often best to call 911 and be the very best witness you can be.
For more information about your legal rights to protect your property, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.