I live in a pretty safe neighborhood. But recently one of my neighbor’s security cameras caught 2 thieves on video going through his car looking for items to steal. This happened at 2:30 AM. On this video I could also see that my vehicle’s perimeter lighting was on, so I know they went through my vehicle as well. Yes, both of our cars were left unlocked and that is unfortunate. The thieves didn’t take anything because nothing of value was left in our vehicles. My question is… what if I see someone on my property going through my vehicle. Can I pull my weapon and give commands for them to get on the ground? Me and my neighbors have been discussing our options in case this happens again. What are the legal ramifications of me pulling my weapon in this manner? There are many unknowns in this situation, like if the thieves pull their own guns and start shooting, or if they have a knife and charge towards me. In those situations I would have no problem defending myself. But if they just run away I would definitely have the wherewithall to not just start shooting because they are getting away. I’m looking for some real answers here. I live in Texas. Thanks everyone in advance! - DSW
My reaction would be to dial 911 immediately. You have no idea if these perps are armed. Is it worth your life, or theirs, to defend “stuff” that can be replaced? Most likely by your insurance policy.
I would have my weapon on me in case they attacked, but drawing a weapon and trying to detain criminals is a job for law enforcement, not the general public. IMHO.
Good point, I forgot to mention that I would call 911 first. I appreciate your other opinions too, very good.
- Take pics with flash/lights if you can get them. Stay where you and yours are safe.
The criteria for using lethal force in most states is imminent, unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm. (Most states, not all.) You also have to be an innocent party and not exacerbate/make the situation worse.
If you make the situation worse, you might not be considered an innocent party and therefore cannot use self-defense as a legal defense.
Is anything in your vehicle or even your vehicle worth the possible legal repercussions associated with brandishing and/or shooting?
I’d personally call 911, make sure the security camera has pictures of the intruder and then set off the alarm on my car. No firearm needed. BUT I would have my firearm on me incase they came into the house.
And once you call 911 keep in mind that when the police show up the guy standing on his front steps with a gun in hand is going to be getting all their attention. Unwanted attention.
There are at least two separate things you need to consider. One is pure legality. The other is triggering a sequence of unnecessary events that you will end up regretting.
Pointing a gun at someone is the crime of Assault, and you risk having to defend yourself against that charge. Even taking out and showing the gun runs the risk of a charge of the crime of Brandishing. How likely you are to be charged with either depends on state and local law, the evaluation of the police and prosecutor, etc. The way you described the scenario self-defense would probably not be a defense. In Castle Doctrine states you are more protected from spurious charges, but your actions will still be under a microscope.
The unintended consequences are just all over the place. Do you really want to be in the paper for being arrested for Assault/Brandishing, just to keep someone from stealing your car radio? The impact to your life and finances could be quite dramatic, even if you are cleared of the charges. I have an acquaintance who was falsely accused of a (minor, non-violent) crime. Even after acquittal the government is still holding her property, her retirement savings are gone, a professional license she needs is being withheld, and employers see the newspaper articles about her court case and won’t hire her. Or let’s say you spark a gun battle in which one of your neighbors is killed by a stray bullet. The scenario you presented is “Citizen’s Arrest”; do you realize you are almost certainly going to be sued by the guys you arrested for false arrest and spend a lot of money defending yourself?
When there is the “imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent” these things pale in comparison and you are, as they say, better judged by 12 than carried by 6. But for property crimes, it’s not worth it.
Be prepared if someone escalates, but a simple “WHAT THE &#$( ARE YOU DOING?” is almost certainly enough to send someone breaking into your car on their way. Even when we had a place in the city just a few blocks from a higher-crime area, all the neighborhood car and home break-ins were because of unlocked doors or windows and the criminals took off at the first sign of another human being.
Agree with the sentiments posted. Call 911 and stay indoors and guard your family. Be a good witness for the police. Too much can go wrong by confronting them. If one of them is on probation, parole, or has warrants, they might decide to attack you so they can escape. I am sure almost all of us have asked ourselves similar questions.
My opinion not worth much but I would just call the cops even though that may not be satisfying - having a gun is in my opinion for self protection - I would only draw my gun if my family was in danger and I had no other recourse
These low life scum bags continue to do this because the risk of anything happening to them is small. My personal reaction is to confront without them really knowing it. Here is a personal example. We were at our beach place which over looks the boat docks. As is my habit I went down to check all my dock lines and boat systems before bed. As I walked away from my boat and past another I noticed the owner had left all his fishing tackle in plain sight. Around 2am I woke up and again as is my habit I went to the window to look down on my boat. Mine looked fine but in the boat with the tackle out was a person smoking. Odd behavior at 2 am. I did not know who’s boat it was, but I got dressed and slipped outside to stand where I could observe and not be seen. Shortly the guy grabbed a bunch of rods/reels and headed down the dock toward me. As he got to me I stepped out, the surprise scared him pretty bad, and I nicely said, “real pretty night isn’t it?” making this short I small talked him while getting a good description and photo without him being aware, Turned out he was a new owner, it was his boat, and he was worried someone would get his tackle. I explained what I was really doing by stopping him. We’ve been friend’s ever since. My point is we can be creative without being confrontational. Yes I was armed, but he never knew it. We can only stop this stuff if we are not afraid to get involved for our neighbors as well as for ourselves. Just be smart about it and weigh the risk. If you’re emotional or a bad actor this is likely not for you.
A situation like this happened in Florida. The owner did indeed shoot the perpetrator. He was justified in shooting the subject. The reason why, he was on the property while the vehicle break in occurred. The car is an extension of the home in Florida. Any aggravated felony On your property in the state of Florida can be met with deadly force, and felony breaking and entering meets this criteria. The subject died at the scene. The victim (homeowner) was not charged.
In Texas, you do have the right to use your firearm in defense of property under certain circumstances.
There are a few states that allow use of lethal force to defend property. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Dealing with my home owners insurance will be less stressful than dealing with the police and public backlash of shooting and possibly killing someone over property. Not to mention, I couldn’t live with myself if my shots killed someone over a piece of property.
I was only addressing his question regarding the legality of use of force in Texas. Of course, we here in the USCCA community strive to always act, not only within the law, but with a moral and ethical character, in which we would not harm someone unless we had no other reasonable choice at that time. One of the reasons we are here - to learn how best to act under various circumstances, and get ideas from others on what those would be.
Thanks everyone for your comments, I really appreciate it. By the way, the criminals were caught several days later not far from our subdivision and are now in jail, YES! I hope all of us can learn from this experience and I think a dialog like this can help everyone. I am the type of person who would not want a confrontation and would stay indoors and protect myself and my family. I have nothing in any of my vehicles that is worth shooting someone over. After having this dialog with you here and after seeking ideas/solutions from other professionals, here is my action plan going forward:
- Never leave anything of value in your vehicle
- Always lock your vehicle when you are not driving
- Always set the vehicle alarm if you have one
- If criminal activity is caught “live” on your security cameras, try to get a good description and call 911 immediately
- Another level of security that is a good idea is to keep your vehicle key fob near you at night while you are sleeping, if you find criminal activity going on outside you can hit the “Panic” button which will hopefully scare off the criminals
- If you have a firearm, get it ready in case they come into the house.
Your additional comments are welcome. Thanks again everyone.
Sounds like a plan. One more thing that has really worked for our neighborhood, and it sounds like part of what worked for yours. We have effectively used Nextdoor, Facebook groups, and a mailing list to create a neighborhood watch group out of pretty much everyone. In the case of our rural ranch pretty much everyone in the area is on at least one of those. When we had a string of burglaries we were able to get a description of the vehicle and build an M.O., and the presence of a white ford pickup with lawnmowers in back (they passed themselves off as landscapers if someone questioned them while they were doing surveillance) caused an immediate 911 call. It’s amazing what one can figure out if you pool information (e.g., they were figuring out when people went to church and then they knew where and when to strike, thus avoiding the fact that pretty much everyone in these parts is armed).
In a city neighborhood we were able to do everything from gather enough support to convince our city councilwoman to beat up (sorry, nicely convince) the police chief to prioritize attacking our crime problem to actually live track a burglar. In the latter case someone arrived home and realized there was a burglar inside. While they sat outside waiting for the police they posted this was happening on Nextdoor. Also people walking down the street looking in and trying handles on car doors, 911 and immediate report on Nextdoor. We made the neighborhood a living hell for the bad guys without anyone doing a direct confrontation. We also figured out that it was an unlocked house or car, an open ground floor window, or some other easy access. I only recall one case where a car window was broken, and that was where they left something of significant value on the seat. While we all know this, seeing it over and over from your neighbors provides mental reinforcement to check your doors and windows, etc.