The Use of Deadly Force To Defend Your Home

Date: April 23, 2009

Daniel Boone Jones lived with his wife, Mary, and their three small children on a farm in Northern Wayne County. Daniel was a very law-abiding man and generally minded his own business.

Daniel\’s family lived off a dirt road, and very little traffic went down their road other than the neighbors that lived by them. Everyone pretty much knew everybody else\’s vehicles.

It was about 3:00 in the morning when Daniel thought he heard a commotion downstairs. At first, he thought it was just the wind, but then he heard it again. Daniel grabbed a loaded gun he kept behind his dresser to make sure everything was in order. Upon going down the steps, Daniel noticed three figures in his home with one of the figures approaching him apparently holding what appeared to Daniel to be a gun. Daniel, without hesitation, began firing his gun. Daniel was a very good shot, and all three of the intruders fell to the floor.

Mary had already called the state troopers who were on their way. Upon arriving at the scene, the troopers discovered two of the would-be burglars to be in critical condition and the other to be wounded, but not seriously.

Issue: Does Daniel have any criminal and/or civil liability?

Answer: No. Daniel had every reason to believe that both his family and he were in imminent danger of bodily harm. Under those circumstances, Daniel was well within his rights under the law to use whatever force he thought necessary to protect his family. Daniel would have neither civil liability nor criminal liability for his actions. Had Daniel observed the three individuals running out of his house when he first saw them and then opened fire, striking the intruders when they were clearly leaving the house, then Daniel might face criminal prosecution. As a general rule, an individual cannot use deadly force to protect property, but can use deadly force to defend themselves against a clear and present danger of bodily harm to either themselves or their family.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.