This was inspired by a post on Quora where someone posted the following:
My friend was at a house with three other individuals. They were partying and apparently they had entered the house without the owner’s permission.
The owner showed up and told them to get out. My friend said they refused and they might have threatened the owner. But he didn’t say what exactly the threat was.
Then the owner went to a closet and got a gun and aimed it at them and forced them out at gunpoint. Was the owner right to do this, and was it legal?
So before I jump into this, I am going to describe a similar story from one of my friends who had a related incident:
My friend rents a room from my mom’s house, which is gated. He owns a firearm. One night, he hears something outside and takes his handgun with him to investigate. He walks into the driveway to see someone who had just jumped the gate walking down the driveway. He told the trespasser that he couldn’t come through this way – that it was private property. To this the person – shaved head, baggy dark clothes and fairly stereotypical of a gang-member (we have a few of those where we live), made some off-handed remark and continued to walk in his general direction. At this point, my friend hit the slide release to make the “rack” sound and said “You don’t understand, I’m not asking – you’re trespassing – leave now.”
The trespasser realized my friend was armed, and immediately turned around and left the premises.
Now some may look at this and say “what if they were just trying to get home and got lost? What if they had a very innocent reason to be there? What if they had a tough day – trying to get home to their sick child, and was just taking a short cut?” Those are all possibilities – real possibilities. However, those are assumptions that can’t be afforded. The facts of the situation are the only things that matter. I am glad he acted the way he did – I had a personal stake not only in my friend but in my mom who lives there.
He was trespassing. When asked to leave, he refused/ignored the demand. At that point, he was warned with the threat of deadly force to leave. If he had then continued to ignore/refuse, or had even escalated the situation, I would have shot him dead. Hindsight is 20/20, but the decisions as the those presented can only be made with the information at hand.
Defending your Castle
I am not a lawyer, but being a instructor of Self Defense you do need to have some overarching knowledge of the law. The rule of thumb is that if you are in fear of great bodily harm or death to you or any person, you have the right to defend yourself with up to deadly force. When in context of trespassing, this is even more the case – which is what many refer to as “Castle Law” – or the right to defend your “Castle”.
Here is the law in our state of California:
“Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.”
The law varies, but the theme is pretty clear, if someone breaks into your residence, you are allowed to use deadly force. The murky area might be what is considered your residence, so in the case of a fenced in property – there might be some argument to whether or not that qualified as residence. But considering the person was approaching, and ignoring demands by the resident, there was a reasonable expectation of danger.
Now let’s go back to what we started with – the question of Quora, and look at it through the lens of California law (since we don’t know the actual place this happened); the homeowner comes home to persons that had unlawful entry into their home (to throw a party – go figure). They confronted the individuals to which they refused. At this point, would a reasonable person assume that they could be subject to imminent peril? I would be a bit nervous to say the least by the boldness of someone who broke in and refuses to leave.
Then they made a threat. If that threat involved bodily harm of any kind – the right of deadly force is justified. But this is not entirely true – even here in California. The law actually says deadly force would be considered legal the moment they entered their home and found unlawful entry. According to the law, the presumption is that there is imminent peril unless the persons were “family members or household”.
That is the reality of the law. I wouldn’t suggest this per se given the situations presented, and I think the homeowner showed restraint. At the very least, the party-goers did everything to try and get themselves killed, and are lucky to be alive – and are only alive by the good graces of the homeowner. The scenarios could have gone many different ways – ways we will never know, but in the end the law provided the means and calm temperament provided execution of the best possible result.
So next time you’re thinking of breaking into a house to throw a party, or to take a shortcut through someone else’s property – remember which side of the law you stand on.
Do you think the law is fair? Do you think that the situations justified the use of deadly force? Let us know what you think!