The following is a video transcript.
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 Pennsylvania 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 trespassers and what you can legally do to eject them.
Are they a trespasser?
You may eject an unwanted person from your property even if they were previously an invited guest. Once you give the unruly friend or family member notice that they’re no longer welcome and they refuse to leave, the person is now 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 them or removing the individual.
Simple Force or Force
What about an uninvited person? An uninvited guest can range from someone who’s completely innocent like a neighborhood kid retrieving a ball from your yard, to someone a bit more sinister like someone sneaking around your land at night or an unknown vehicle pulling up into your driveway.
Even when the situation looks sinister, so long as a person is not committing or attempting to commit any offense outside of their simple trespass, you may still only use simple force to remove them. In Pennsylvania, use of force against a trespasser is only justified when you reasonably believe that such force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate unlawful entry.
Words first, force later
Pennsylvania law also requires that before you use force to remove the trespasser, you must first request that they leave. Keep in mind that if you’re a law-abiding gun owner and you pull the trigger, even if you’re just firing a warning shot, you’ve crossed the line into using deadly force and may be arrested, charged, and possibly convicted for that act.
“So, you’re telling me I can’t shoot someone breaking into my house?”
No, this person is no longer a mere trespasser, and you can use the castle doctrine and self-defense in defense of others. In deadly force laws, you are no longer protecting just your property you’re now protecting yourself and your family. A mere trespasser can quickly become a more dangerous threat, so it’s critical you understand the laws in your state.
If you have any questions about this issue, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.