The following is a video transcript.
Property Rights Against Trespassers
What do you do when an unruly party guest gets out of hand? Of course you can kick him out, but what if he just won’t leave? What about someone who shows up on your property uninvited? These people are called “trespassers” and Georgia Law protects your property rights by allowing you to decide who is and who is not allowed on your property.
Let’s discuss who might become a trespasser and what you can legally do to protect yourself.
You may eject an unwanted person from your property, even if that person was previously an invited guest. Once you give the interloper notice he or she is no longer welcome and that unwanted individual refuses to leave, they now become a trespasser. You may then use the threats of force and force itself to assist you in helping this individual off your property, but you can’t use deadly force. On most occasions, this use of force will take the form of physically escorting or removing the gatecrasher from your property.
DON’T JUMP THE GUN
Uninvited guests can range from someone completely innocent, like a neighborhood kid retrieving a ball from your yard, to someone a bit more sinister; perhaps someone is sneaking around your land at night or an unknown vehicle is pulling into your driveway. Even when the situation looks sinister, so long as the person has not committed or attempted to commit any offense outside of a simple trespass, you may still only use threats of force and force to remove the individual.
When Can I Use Force?
Those levels of action begin with threats of force, verbal commands, loud directions to exit the property, and they may continue with physical force against the trespasser, showing him or her the quickest way off the property. Keep in mind that in order to use force against a trespasser you must reasonably believe your use of force is necessary to prevent or to terminate that trespass. Deadly force may only be used to prevent a trespass when you reasonably believe it’s necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony—like murder, rape, or armed robbery—on your property.
There are situations in which drawing or pointing your firearm may be a reasonable use of force, but elevate that situation carefully. Pointing your gun at a high schooler taking a shortcut through your property or the electric company’s meter reader may ultimately get you into legal hot water. If you pull the trigger, even as a warning shot, you have crossed the line into deadly force and you may be arrested, charged, and prosecuted for that act. You could even be convicted.
STAND YOUR GROUND & CASTLE DOCTRINE
Am I telling you that you can’t use deadly force when someone breaks into your home? Absolutely not.
Someone breaking into your home is no longer a mere trespasser and Georgia’s law on the defense of habitation, Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law, and the legal theory of the Castle Doctrine will help you. You’re no longer just protecting your property; you’re now protecting yourself and your family. A mere trespasser can quickly become a more dangerous threat, so it’s crucial you understand what action you can take to defend yourself and your family, and what action you can’t.
If you have any questions about this issue, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney today.