What do you do when an unruly party guest gets out of hand? Of course you can kick them out, but what if they won’t leave? What about someone who shows up on your property uninvited? These people are trespassers and North Carolina law protects your property rights by allowing you to decide who is and who is not allowed on your property.
ARE THEY CONSIDERED A TRESPASSER?
Let’s discuss who might become trespassers and what you can legally do to eject them. You may eject an unwanted person from your property even if they were previously an invited guest. Once you give the unruly friend or extended family member notice that they are no longer welcome and they refuse to leave, the person becomes a trespasser. You may then use force, but not deadly force to remove the individual from your property. On most occasions, this use of force will take the form of physically escorting or removing the individual.
DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS
But what about an uninvited person? Uninvited guests can range from someone completely innocent, like a neighborhood kid retrieving the ball from your yard to someone a bit more sinister, like someone sneaking around your land at night or an unknown vehicle pulling up your driveway. Even when the situation looks sinister, so long as the person is not committing or attempting to commit any offense outside of their simple trespass, you may still use only the force necessary to remove them.
Must Be Reasonable
In North Carolina, the continue of force starts with verbal commands and then continues with physical force against another and may even include displaying a firearm. However, you may not point a gun at someone unless you are in a situation where a reasonable person would believe it necessary to use deadly force to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm. Keep it in mind that the force you use against the trespasser must be that which an ordinary and prudent man would consider reasonable.
There are situations in which drawing or pointing your firearm may be a reasonable use of force but evaluate your situation carefully. Pointing a 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 and involve charges. Further, once you pull the trigger, even as a warning shot, you have crossed the line into deadly force and may be arrested, charged, and convicted for that act.
“SO, YOU’RE TELLING ME I CAN’T SHOOT SOMEONE BREAKING INTO MY HOUSE?”
No. In North Carolina, if someone is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering your home, this person is no longer a mere trespasser and you can use the Castle Doctrine and personal protection deadly force laws. You are no longer protecting just your property but are now protecting yourself and your family. A mere trespasser can quickly become a more dangerous threat.
It is crucial that you understand the stand your ground law in NC. If you have any question about this issue, contact U.S. LawShield and asked to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.