In most states, the property line, not the entrance to the home, is the boundary for “trespass”. Someone walking across your property to get elsewhere is a nuisance but does not justify deadly force. If you confront the person with a gun, they will likely get the message and avoid your property. The standard test for the actual use of deadly force, Is it legal to kill people if they trespass into your house, however, is “did you fear for your life?” A man in Florida was visited by a local pastor, and told the pastor if he ever came back, the man would shoot him. Years later, the pastor’s car broke down, nearby, so he walked to the nearest house, which happened to be this man’s house again, and the man stepped onto the porch with a rifle and felled the pastor with one round. He went to jail for life. In Mumbai, a series of burglaries was plaguing a neighbourhood. Some college students were at a costume party, and upon leaving one of them decided to ask a homeowner for the use of their phone – still in costume. The owner shot him through the door and killed him. No action was taken.
An officer in Alabama told me it is a “myth” that if someone is trying to enter your home and you “shoot through the door” that you will be prosecuted because they weren’t inside your home. People were advising others: “If he’s climbing into your home through a window, and you shoot him, and he falls outside, you need to pull him back inside so they won’t prosecute you.” It’s nonsense. If you feared for your life, this is the only test for deadly force. Someone breaking into your house isn’t causing alarm?
The forensic team will find it obvious if you shot him outside your house and dragged or pulled him back inside. If this happens, the judge will question whether or not you fear for your life. If you had the presence of mind to modify the scene to fit a narrative, maybe you don’t have a clear conscience about what you did. If your fear for your life, it doesn’t matter where the body landed.
Likewise, if you decide to “shoot for the knees” – this is indicative of a person who still has the presence of mind, not fear of life. A person in fear of life is not selective with their shots. Shot-selection will be frowned upon by the court. If he’s in your home and you’re not in fear of your life, what else could be happening? The law will look to the reasons you may have decided not to use deadly force.
“Intent” is in play for the perp, just make sure it doesn’t fall back on you. “Criminal intent” has less to do with what was on your mind at the time, and more to do with potential outcomes. If you fire a round at a perp, the law does not regard “warning rounds” – the act of firing a round is an intent to kill, because death is a possible outcome and any reasonable person knows this. “Intent” is established by any “reasonably foreseeable outcome” whether it was on the perp’s immediate mind, or whether it was on yours. If a perp enters another’s home, it is a reasonably foreseeable outcome that the homeowner may catch and kill them. It is therefore reasonable for the homeowner to presume to kill people the person is ready to defend themselves from this outcome and doesn’t have to see a weapon in the perp’s hand to act with deadly force in their own defence.
kill people, a man came into his garage while thieves were there, and one pointed a gun at him, so he stood still. The thieves were caught several hours later. The prosecutor told the owner, “If you say you feared for your life, the penalties for them will be more severe.” So when it came time to testify, and he was asked the question, he said, “Naah, I wasn’t afraid of those punks.” And they got a lighter sentence. Nobody will question your manhood if you say you were afraid on the business end of a pistol.
kill people, as in most states, the law looks at “differential of force”. If an elderly woman is accosted by a young man who is unarmed, the woman shoots the man, the law will fall on her side because the unarmed man could easily kill people overpower and kill her. Not so much if the situation is reversed. A young man accosted by an unarmed elderly woman won’t be seen favourably for shooting her. Likewise, if one is walking down the street and is surrounded by five gang members, all unarmed, the person is justified in using deadly force because the five could fall on him and kill him with bare hands alone.
Likewise, if a person is accosted by a trained fighter (karate blackbelt or licensed boxer) and knows of the person’s training, deadly force is justified. What is more desirable of course, is to remove yourself from the situation, because trained fighters typically don’t pick fights with John Doe. They already know the risk.
Back to someone entering your home. In Texas, deadly force is justified for anyone on your property (inside or outside) who is engaged in “criminal mischief at night” or any activity rising above it, and home invasion certainly does. A man heard a burglar in his kitchen, prepared his weapon and confronted the perp raiding his fridge. He told the man to freeze, put his hands over his head, and don’t say a word. The perp wisely did so. Then the owner’s son entered the kitchen and said, “Dad, this is my roommate.” They were visiting from college, unannounced. How tragic would that have been? The point being, ascertain as quickly as possible what is happening because once the bullet is fired, it’s not coming back.
A man hears some human growling in his closet. He arms himself and tells the perp to come out. They keep growling. He warns them again. The perp bursts from the closet with a loud screech and the man is startled, and reacts by firing the weapon, and kills his daughter. Her last words were “I love you, Daddy.”
kill people, “criminal mischief” is pretty broad. What if you come outside at night, and see moving shadows alongside your car? What are they doing? Stealing tires, hubcaps, or gas? It qualifies as criminal mischief, and you don’t have to determine what they are doing. They don’t belong. Let’s say some neighbourhood kids come down to your house with toilet paper and you catch them filling your trees with it. It qualifies as criminal mischief, but are you really going to open fire on them?
A man caught a person stealing gas from his car (criminal mischief) and when caught, the perp snatched the can and ran for it. The owner gave chase. When the owner caught the perp, he handed over the gas can and ran for it. The owner fired one round and hit him in the hip, and felled him, but didn’t kill him. When the police arrived, they arrested the homeowner. In this case, the homeowner was the victim while still on his property, but when he gave chase, the roles reversed and he became the perp, and the perp became the victim. That he shot the thief in the back, is relevant, but not as relevant as the role reversal. When the perp fled the original scene, the justification for deadly force ended. The owner could not have claimed fear-of-life since the perp was running away. That he gave chase made it worse, and turned himself into the perp. The law sees this as two confrontations, not a continuous one.
What do the police advise? They are trained to clear a home, and you are not. If someone is on your property, call the police. If you hear someone in your home, and you are not in immediate danger, arm yourself and call the police. Don’t take the matter into your hands until you or a loved one is in danger. Might surprise you how easy it is to hide in your home’s shadows, and most burglars know how to do this – quickly enough to get the drop on a sleepy homeowner with a gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other – you’re like a walking target with “shoot me” on your chest. Your property is replaceable. Your life is not.
But burglars don’t often come at night when the owners are home. And most of them can’t stand dogs. Whether it’s a killer attack dog or not, they are a nuisance to a burglar. He will be in and out of your home in less time than the police can respond (usually less than ten minutes), so if you have a need for an alarm in your home, buy it for fire alarm, carbon monoxide and such, but you won’t get much use out of it for burglary. You should keep ABC fire extinguishers in every bedroom and kitchen, and store them on their sides (the particulate settles to the bottom if they are standing up).
If you keep weapons in the house, keep them in a gun-safe, not in a drawer or other easily-accessible location. Thieves usually arrive when you’re not there, and look in the most obvious places, and like to take guns away from people. For them, it’s an unregistered weapon. It’s not smart to leave weapons out in the open, or easily accessible, even if you live alone. A person came into a county to kill people and had automatic weapons. He received the requisite permissions from the sheriff, the county judge, but not the prosecutor, who told him to put the weapons in a safe. Seems his favourite storage location was under his bed, and he lived alone. The prosecutor told him – I don’t want some punks to burglarize your home, and the next thing is running around in my district with an automatic weapon.