My understanding from reading the law is that if I'm in my house/apartment/other dwelling I'm legally in I have no obligation to retreat as long as I'm not the initial agressor, and it appears there is an obligation to retreat if you're not in a dwelling unless other conditions are met. It also appears that if the bad guy is in the process of committing a burglary, arson, murder, rape, robbery or first degree manslaughter deadly force would be justified to stop them. For the crimes listed in the last sentence deadly force appears justified to prevent them from escaping custody. It looks like burglary is a pretty broadly defined term and that being in a dwelling unlawfully with the intent to commit any other crime qualifies, which makes me think if you find someone in your house and they do pretty much anything other than what you tell them you could probably shoot them. Robbery appears to be stealing with the addition of showing a weapon, using physical force or threats. Robbery also seems to apply when the property being forcibly stolen is a car.
Now, my interpretations of the wording in the laws might be wrong, so that's why I'm posting. Please correct me if anything I have above is wrong, and to clarify a few scenarios:
1. Someone breaks into my apartment and appears to be trying to steal something or threatens me when confronted. Justified in shooting them?
2. I catch someone breaking into my car or trying to hotwire/drive away with my car while I'm in a parking lot and I'm a few feet away. Justified?
3. Same as above plus they specifically threaten to hurt me if I interfere or I see a knife or something.
4. Being car jacked while in the car. Justified?
5. Pick pocketed and shoved to the ground in the process. (by my reading that'd qualify as robbery)
6. Outside my apartment and see someone climbing through the window with, for example, my vcr.
Justification of force
Definition of burglary
Larceny, since it's listed in the justification of physical but non-deadly force
Without getting into the scenarios, IMHO you shouldn't really be shooting anybody unless you fear for your life/safety or the life/safety of a family member. No matter what the law says, shooting someone for stealing your TV is (i) morally wrong and (ii) certain to cost you tens of thousands in legal fees, maybe your job, and maybe your sanity.
Sharky, I agree with P-A-S. You should also keep in mind that even if you are justified in using DPF you may never act in a reckless manner and you are always at risk to be sued civilly for money damages. You should make sure your homeowners insurance or umbrella policy covers you for these types of civil liability actions.
I can tell you from personal experience that situations develop quickly and you will only have time to react and not think about what you should or shouldn't do in any specific situation. The most important thing is to be mentally prepared by "running" different scenarios over in your mind and have a plan of action in mind. If a situation develops you'll be better mentally prepared to deal with it. The best thing to do is try and go through a realistic shoot-don't-shoot training program.
If you are ever involved in a DPF incident call 911 and state that there was a shooting at xxxx and you need an ambulance to respond. Do not provide any other information over the phone. When the PD arrives identify yourself but explain that you are to emotionally distraught to discuss anything that occurred. The LEO's are there to investigate a crime and are not your friends. Do not volunteer any information. Contact your attorney as soon as you can. Keep in mind that when LEO's are involved in a shooting they usually can't be questioned about the incident for 24hrs and only when their attorney is present.
This is an excerpt from the SCPD Pistol Handbook. It's a pretty good reference.
SCPD Pistol Handbook
Since most licensees are not attorneys at law, the following is a simplification of the Defense of
Justification section in relation to when deadly physical force (e.g., shooting someone with a handgun)
may be authorized by law.
Keep in mind that the law authorizes the use of deadly physical force in certain instances but it does not
command it. In order to understand this section, it is important that you review page 1 of this handbook
and understand the list of important terms and definitions.
The following is a list of instances that the law allows a civilian to use deadly physical force against
1. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop deadly physical force from being used against you or another person, but if you or the other
intended victim know they can retreat safely, you cannot use deadly physical force. One exception to
this rule is if you are in your home and you were not the initial aggressor and deadly physical force is
necessary to stop the aggressor, you do not have to retreat.
2. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop a robbery. (IMPORTANT) You must understand what a robbery is. The stealing of property is not
always a robbery. Robbery is forcible stealing. A person forcibly steals property, and commits robbery
when, in the course of committing a larceny (stealing property) he/she uses or threatens the immediate
use of physical force upon another person for the purpose of preventing or overcoming resistance to the
taking of the property or to the keeping of the property immediately after the taking of it. (The snatching
of a pocketbook may or may not be considered a robbery, depending on the circumstances. The grabbing
of the pocketbook is a larceny, but if the victim is pushed or struggles with the person taking the pocketbook,
that would make it a robbery.)
3. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop a burglary of a dwelling or an occupied building. You must be an owner, authorized occupier or
someone licensed or privileged to be on the premises in order to be able to use deadly physical force in
this case. If the person committing the crime is fleeing the dwelling or building, you may no longer use
deadly physical force against that person.
4. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop an arson.
5. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop a forcible rape.
6. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop a kidnapping.
7. When you have reasonable cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or
stop a forcible sodomy.
Section 35.30 subdivision 4(b) of the New York State Penal Law authorizes the use of deadly physical
force to effect the arrest of a person who has committed Murder, Robbery, Manslaughter 1st degree,
Forcible Rape or Forcible Sodomy and who is in immediate flight therefrom. You must have reasonable
cause to believe that deadly physical force is necessary to apprehend the person. (WARNING) It is
strongly recommended that you DO NOT use deadly physical force unless you reasonably believe it
absolutely necessary to protect yourself or another person from deadly physical force. (REMEMBER)
Your actions may be authorized by the penal law, but you can still be held accountable for your actions
and be sued civilly.
You may never use deadly physical force against another person who is committing criminal mischief
(intentionally damaging property) to your property, or the property of another person.
You may never use deadly physical force against another person who is stealing property (no matter
what the value of the property) when it does not fit into the category of robbery.
Do not use deadly physical force against a fleeing person. Leave the apprehension of a suspected felon
to the police.
If you shoot another person, you may be required to appear before the Grand Jury to determine if your
conduct was justified. You will also have to pay for your own legal counsel. Therefore, it is
recommended that the use of deadly physical force be avoided except in those cases where it is
absolutely necessary to protect yourself or another person from the imminent use of deadly physical
force and you do not unnecessarily endanger innocent parties.
IMHO, unless it's the Arch of the Cubenant, stealing isn't worth it. I WILL NEVER shoot someone unless there is an obvious, present, and immenent threat to the life and limb of me or someone close to me. The legal and administrative troubles are simply not worth it, IMHO. Justified or not, paperwork up the ass and legal trouble (or worse, anal sex with a cell mate), are only preferable to physical bodily harm. Material holdings can be replaced or recovered. Edit to add: This would even apply if I lived in Vermont or Texas.
I agree that actually using it should be a last resort and I don't see myself shooting someone for walking off with my vcr, but it's still good to know exactly what is legal and what isn't
just a brief note, use of Deadly force is not justafiable for protecting property, as you described in situation #2.
essentially in NY as I understand it, Force is only okay if you have no obvious and safe retreat.
for exanple, #4 your getting car jacked, if your life is not directly being threatened your safe and obvious retreat is to drive away as fast as responisible possible.
as for home defense, your home is your castle, as is anywhere you are staying at the time as i understand it. a hotel room would equal your castle. If someone were breaking into your home, that is justifiable.
again, i could be mistaken in some of these cases, but thats the law as I understand it, in brief.
bottom line is the jury is going to be asked "what would a reasonable person have done in that situation?" and if you have a safe and obvious retreat, lets hope you took it.
hope that helped more than hurt