Is A Property Owner Liable For Using Deadly Force To Protect Their Property?
Generally speaking, an owner of property may not use deadly force to defend their property. Society values the life, health, and safety of an individual—even an intruder—higher than any material possessions they may be trying to steal.
That said, a property owner is not prohibited from invoking self-help methods to defend their property from another person, and is entitled to use reasonable force to prevent someone from entering his or her property and to stop them from removing items from the property. Actions that would normally occasion criminal charges or civil liability claims for assault, battery, or other intentional harm will not be considered unlawful when they are performed as a reasonable method of self-help to defend one’s property.
The use of force to inflict significant bodily harm or cause death in such circumstances is not permitted, with some narrow exceptions. When it can be demonstrated that an intruder is threatening the personal safety of a property’s occupants, in addition to posing a threat to the property itself, deadly force may be appropriate.
The use of deadly force can also be permitted when the intruder is committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony. Examples of forcible felonies may include murder, kidnapping, robbery, and sexual assault.