Hi, Mark Edwards here. This month I would like to talk to you about the type of force that one can use to protect personal property.
Deadly Force Is Not Justified
To start with, I should note that generally the use of deadly force, that is force likely to cause death or great bodily injury, can never be used to protect property. No matter the monetary or sentimental value of that property, deadly force cannot be used to protect it. The only force that is permissible to use in protection of property is reasonable non-deadly force.
The Castle Doctrine may affect the amount of force that you could use. If you’re in your residence, workplace, or in a vehicle and someone tries to break into that place (what is commonly referred to as a burglary) you do not have to wait and see if their intention is simply to steal something or to do you harm. There is a presumption that they intend to commit a violent act against you and that you were in reasonable fear of suffering death or great bodily harm. You can use deadly force in that situation.
If you’re out in public and someone tries to rob you—that is they use or threaten the use of force against you to obtain something—you have the right to stand your ground and use deadly force to defend yourself. In this situation, you were defending yourself and not merely your property. Let’s say you’re out in public and someone grabs your smartphone and runs away with it. This is not a robbery but a crime of theft, and you can only use non-deadly force to recover your property.
For any questions about the use of force to protect property, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.