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Errant shots in a HD sitch: who's in trouble?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by fridayxiii, Jan 20, 2009.

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  1. fridayxiii

    fridayxiii Member

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    After reading a few different threads, a question came to mind that surfaced when I first considered buying a gun for HD.

    Like many other people, I live in a single-family home in a suburban area. To either side, my neighbors' houses are <45 feet away (maybe 20ft. on one side). Out my back door, my neighbor is approx. 30 ft., across the street from the front of my house, maybe 150-175 ft?

    A bad-case (maybe not "worst" case scenario), is that a home invasion occurs, the home & gun owner fires his/her firearm, and some rounds miss the intended target. What happens if bullets pass through walls or doors, and damage a neighbor's property, i.e. hit their car, or god forbid go through a neighbor's sliding glass door & hit someone? Is the shooter at fault for firing the weapon, missing, and the resultant damage?

    I can only assume the person that fired the shots would be held liable, but wasn't 100% sure. I appreciate any links, references, or best guesses.
     
  2. mgkdrgn

    mgkdrgn Member

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    Your lead, your problem. That's one of the reasons that shotguns "rule" for HD ... limited range (unless you are loading with slugs, which imho is a poor choice for HD)
     
  3. Duke of Doubt

    Duke of Doubt member

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    Criminal liability? Generally, no. If you were privileged to shoot and you shot at your assailant, the mere fact that you missed and hit a kid does not mean you shot with intent to kill the kid. However, if you shot under circumstances which evinced a reckless disregard for human life, such as, for example, firing a 75mm howitzer shell through your assailant's torso and into the gasoline tanker truck park behind him, you may have problems.

    Note: -- if YOU are engaged in a crime, and a passerby shoots at you, misses and hits your accomplice or a passerby, killing him, you actually may be guilty of his murder under the "felony murder rule" and its progeny. And accordingly, if YOU defend yourself by killing an assailant or accidentally kill a passerby while defending yourself, the assailant's accomplice may be guilty of their murder.

    Civil liability? Quite possibly. Negligence generally is actionable, though you may have valid defenses in civil court, such as necessity and others.
     
  4. kingpin008

    kingpin008 Member

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    Correct. Why wouldn't you be responsible for those rounds?
     
  5. Dominus

    Dominus Member

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    Shoot guns have a wide range of ammo.
    Don't forget one of the golden rules, know whats beyond your target.
    The best thing for any situation, be proficient and practice different scenarios with your family as to what they should do and where they should be.
     
  6. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

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    That depends on local laws. In some places, the intruder is considered at fault because their unlawful presence created the scenario in the first place. Assuming the shooting was justified and deemed necessary to protect life, he may bear the fallout. How do you think police departments get away with so much collateral damage? In many cases they charge it to the person they shot.
     
  7. fridayxiii

    fridayxiii Member

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    This was/is my first & automatic assumption. Mine was just a question that came to mind when considering possible outcomes of a home invasion scenario. I've thoroughly read the laws of FL to gain the best understanding of my rights, and I take my responsibilities w/the utmost seriousness, but this was a circumstance I hadn't found any information on, hence my post here.

    Amen to both statements. A commitment to myself for the new year is to take some tactical defense training so I can best address the second.

    Thanks to all for the replies, they are appreciated!
     
  8. ants

    ants Member

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    You are always responsible for your actions, whether exercising a civil right or not.

    The rest of us will sympathize, but the shooter is still responsible. What ever would make you think you are not?




    If a chihuaha runs out in the street and you swerve onto the sidewalk to miss it, and kill some kids walking home from school, you will be held fully responsible. The rest of us will sympathize because you were saving the dog's life, but you are still fully responsible in every possible way.
     
  9. Ridgerunner665

    Ridgerunner665 Member

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    Local laws on this are all the same...

    Your bullet, your problem...
     
  10. TX1911fan

    TX1911fan Member

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    I think Mike the Wolf is correct. If you have the right to shoot, and you miss, at worst you would probably be guilty of manslaughter. Still sucks, but it's not murder. In many jurisdictions, the criminal would be responsible.
     
  11. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    ...would be guilty of any criminal charges. Responsibility for civil liability is another story.
     
  12. Mello

    Mello Member

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    You are definitely looking at civil liability for any damage your actions cause; unless your jurisdiction has either a statute or jurisprudence which provides that an intruder is a superseding intervening cause which relieves you of liability.

    So balance the needs of self-defense with the risks of your chosen projectile going beyond your intended target and beyond your property. Some experts suggest a shotgun with #4 bird shot to reduce the chance of injury as distance increases.

    Some jurisdictions may have criminal penalties for a bullet that you fired hitting anyone who is not the bad guy. Each state has its own criminal code. Each local jurisdiction has its own prosecutor who has the discretion (and personal agenda) to decide which case is prosecuted.
    Example of DA with personal agenda . . . . the "Duke Rape Case".
     
  13. Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow

    Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow member

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    Assuming a good/justified shoot, the shooter's liability for damage to innocent property or person:

    Criminal Liability (malicious mischief, battery, manslaughter, etc.): Highly unlikely but possible; very fact-dependent as to your recklessness or lack thereof.

    Civil Liability (negligence / wrongful death) : Highly likely, due the standard rules of negligence; particularly the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Res_ipsa_loquiter
     
  14. kurtmax

    kurtmax Member

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    Shotguns definitely aren't 'King' of SD if it's wall penetration you are worried about. If you are using bird shot maybe, but then you won't be able to do anything but tickle an intruder. Slugs? I hope your next 3 neighbors like a hole in their house. Buckshot also goes through something like 15-20 layers of drywall on average.

    A 5.56mm rifle is actually one of the best HD firearms for both power and little penetration. On average a 5.56mm cartridge will penetrate less walls than 12g Buck or .45ACP. It also hits alot harder if you hit someone (well, harder than the .45ACP). I don't have any links to ballistics but you can easily check this out.
     
  15. expvideo

    expvideo Member

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    Absolutely. You are responsible for any bullet that you fire. From a civil standpoint, you will be held accountable. From a criminal standpoint, you may or may not be held accountable depending on the facts.
     
  16. ConstitutionCowboy

    ConstitutionCowboy member

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    I would assume the criminal would be at fault. Were it not for the criminal's criminal act, the gun wouldn't be fired. It's akin to the felony murder thing.

    Woody
     
  17. eye5600

    eye5600 Member

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    Rough and ready penetration testing:
    http://theboxotruth.com/index.htm

    Unfortunately, it turns out that walls are weaker than bad guys when it comes to stopping bullets. Most anything that will reliably put down the BG is likely not stopped by any wall that is not brick or cinderblock. Bullets that break apart penetrate walls less, but also penetrate BGs less.
     
  18. TRGRHPY

    TRGRHPY Member

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    If you were legal in your shooting to begin with, I would say "no". You haven't met the criteria for a criminal action. As ConstitutionCowboy pointed out, it would fall on the criminal if someone else was hurt.

    If you ever watch videos of police shootings, they often miss and rarely, if ever, take the time to worry about their background. I specifically remember an officer with an AR sticking out of the driver side window shooting at a suspect during a chase down a freeway during the daytime with oncoming traffic.

    In a true SD shooting, you just don't have the time to worry about your background.
     
  19. JImbothefiveth

    JImbothefiveth Member

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    It probably is, but not as good if you're worried about shooting through walls.

    According to the box'o'truth, 00 buckshot sent one pellet through 9 boards, 3 through 8, and I think the rest were stopped by the seventh. #4 and #1 went through 6. m-193 from an AR went through at least 12.

    Maybe with expanding ammo, the AR would have been better.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2009
  20. coloradokevin

    coloradokevin Member

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    Didn't read all of the responses, but I'm still reminded of what they taught us in our police academy years ago:

    "Every bullet you fire has a little lawyer sitting on top of it. Make sure you know where every shot is going to land, because you are responsible for every shot you fire".
     
  21. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    Well ok. If anyone can show where this has ever happened under similar circumstances involving a home owner and a home invader I would like to see it. Since to my knowledge this has never happened I would say the odds of it happening are somewhat akin to a large asteroid striking the Earth in my life time. And I will tell you why this hasn't happened.

    Just to give you an idea of what kind of odds you are facing imagine that there were no structures in your neighborhood. No walls, cars, fences. Just you and your neighbors standing in a large flat open field. You have one neighbor who is 30 feet away (are you sure about 30'? this sounds too close for most building regulations) and another who is 100-150 feet away and so on in the normal locations in their homes (if the houses were there).

    Let us say that an assailant approaches you from a random direction in a 360 degree arc. The odds that even your closest neighbor would be standing in a direct line of fire behind the assailant in line with you are already in the thousands to one category. Once you start adding in obstructions that could stop rounds such as refrigerators and home computer systems the odds drop into the minuscule. It drops to less than the possibility of a single shot .50BMG rifle dropping a 747 out of the sky at random or to say nearly zero, never zero just nearly.

    Will you damage property? The chances are much higher of course. I guess you have to determine what your life is worth.
     
  22. BTR

    BTR Member

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    It's happened. I read about a child who was paralyzed when a bullet from a "good shoot" penetrated into another house. Can't remember the details.
     
  23. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    That's scientific?
     
  24. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    It is as scientific as this:

    :rolleyes:

    My point is if it has happened, it has not happened much. Lord knows how much the anti's love to wave that type of stuff in our face.
     
  25. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    There are two factors: likelihood and potential consequences. The latter have to be considered very severe. The former may be "remote" or "greater than remote"--probably a lot lower than "probable"--but there is still reason for concern.

    The potential consequences are such that on balance, the need for mitigation is indicated. Something like whether to have an airbag. People don't crash very often, but...

    I've read that police shootings of unintended victims have been numerous. That's one of the reasons they use hollow points, and one of the reasons that years ago the .357 Magnum was often not carried. It's not just a matter of missed shots, but also one of bullets passing through the target.

    In my case, I have retired a 9MM that functions reliably only with ball ammunition--and I'm still concerned about the possibility of hitting an innocent person.

    Years ago, someone in my general area took a box of war souvenir handguns that had belonged to her late husband to a neighbor. The neighbor picked up a Luger and squeezed the trigger. Blam! The bullet hit a juice glass from which a person quite some distance away was drinking.

    That was enough for me.

    Take a compass and spin it and look at your neighborhood on Google Earth. Consider how many houses within a three-quarter mile radius were swept by the needle.

    That is enough for me.

    I never arrive at any conclusions on the basis that I have never heard of something happening.
     
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