Shooting Trespassers: Is It Legal?

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on January 29, 2014

This is a difficult subject, because states vary on the regulations for homeowners to pull a gun on a trespasser. We have the right to defend our property, but to what extent under real estate law? There’s a tremendous gray area there. We can shed some light on that, though, and possibly give you some direction on what may be allowable under law.

For starters, you cannot use deadly force at all to protect your property. In the issue of fairness by law, even when gunssomeone trespasses on your property, either intentionally or unintentionally, you could be held for criminal liability if you inflict bodily harm or cause death on another human being, plain and simple. That may seem to leave you with no such course of action or alternative to pull out your rifle for someone thinking of breaking into your house, but bear in mind, there are rights you possess with regard to trespassing.

For one thing, you may take on self-defense – even with a gun – if you fear the trespasser causes you bodily harm or death. By law, there’s something called a “reasonable response,” by which if a trespasser is perceived to cause any kind of harm, your response to that perceived harm should be proportional. In other words, don’t pull a gun on a trespasser if he or she is trying to attack you with a spoon!

There are other facets of the law that vary from state to state, such as what counts as your dwelling – your porch, your backyard? Consider the law and do the research. Consult with a qualified real estate attorney. Until then, know this: it’s possibly the best alternative to simply call 911.

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