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Car Burglary Thwarted, Owner Shoots Alleged Thief

Legal Ramifications When Faced With Possible Life Threatening Situation

An article published January 5, 2012, in the Ft Lauderdale News and Sun Sentinel, entitled "Judge Admonishes accused Hollywood Car Burglar Who Was Shot" is an interesting illustration of what a person should or should not do when faced with a possible life threatening situation.

The article describes a car burglary attempt which was thwarted when the vehicle's owner shot the would be thief; essentially the alleged thief was attempting to break into the owners white Taurus parked outside the owner's home. The owner armed himself with a handgun and went outside to confront the thief; the owner thought the thief was reaching for a weapon in his waistband, and later told police he was in fear for this life and fired his weapon striking the thief two times in the lower portion of his leg.

Clearly it seems that in these dangerous times any reasonable person can be confronted with such a situation; The question becomes whether the police should be called or whether a weapon can be used by that person "on the spot" to protect a person or his property in such cases;

Reference to the Florida Statutes help resolve such questions;

Florida Statute 782.02 says that "the use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or commit any felony upon him or her or in any dwelling house in which such a person shall be:

Clearly then in a home invasion one should legally be able to use deadly force to protect himself or his family from the would be burglar; In a recent case in Nassau County (Long Island) New York such a scenario unfolded; A young teenage mother alone with her infant child shot a home invader before he could attack her family just as he broke into her front door and entered her premises; The young woman in fact was on the line with 911 operators and could be heard asking whether she could use a gun to shoot the home invader immediately before the break in. The perpetrator was in fact shot and killed after he broke into the young woman's house.

The woman did nothing wrong in that case and acted within the boundaries of the law.

Other statues like Florida Statute 776.031 (dealing with Defense of Others) further clarify the legal duties involved in such self defense situations

Relating to that statute an individual using deadly force is justified only if they believe that this form of force is required to avert the impending commission of a forceful felony. The individual doesn’t have an obligation to retreat from the aggressor if the person is in an area where they have a right to be;

Arguably therefor the victim described in the article under the particular facts, it could be argued, acted within the boundaries of the laws when he went outside to confront the person who was shot breaking into his car after the burglar allegedly reached into his waistband for a weapon;

Here is where the situation becomes tricky however since if the shooter made an honest mistake and the person shot was merely an innocent bystander then the above described self defense principles would have to be consulted to see if the shooter first had a right to be on a public sidewalk or whether he acted reasonably in not retreating.

Perhaps in a situation where the actions of the alleged defendant is less clear it would be better for the shooter to call the police for assistance prior to taking any action involving deadly force if the car owner's life was not in danger.

Each case after all can be different; This is the reason individuals accused of crimes as well as victims can be helped by consulting competent legal counsel for advice in such cases.

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