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Shooting Home Robber in the Back

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by numaone, May 29, 2009.

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  1. numaone

    numaone Member

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    Hello y'all,
    I just started taking a serious stance on home defense and while thinking about it, I had a problem that was plaguing me. I'm not sure what I would do in this (realistic) scenario, so I wanted to gather your opinions.

    Background: I live in the state of Florida. Florida has the Castle Doctrine for homes. I interpret the law to mean that anyone who forcefully and without authorization enters your dwelling has forfeited their life, for whatever reason.

    That being said would you shoot a home invader in the back as he is heading out the door (but still within the confines of the house) if he was only stealing [insert valuable MATERIAL possession here]. I guess I'm imagining a robber running out of the house with VCR, or Earrings, etc... I don't think this is a legal matter if he's sill in the house, but more of a moral issue. Would you shoot him?

    Thanks for your thoughts.
     
  2. Oro

    Oro Member

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    I will actually pay someone to come over here and take the VCR's and other antique electronics junk, actually...;)


    Seriously, though: No. I have run through this a number of times mentally, and the only way I am going to shoot someone in the back, even if justified, is if they have just done serious bodily injury to someone else, or if I suspect they are a very dangerous, violent felon (e.g., a string of deadly assauly or rapes in the area and the person who broke in fits the descpription and MO). I will not shoot someone in the back over a VCR or something similar if they are fleeing.

    Saying something like "I'll shoot to wound or in the leg" is I think also a bad decision - you can easily kill with a leg shot if you hit the right spot. In a tense situation that degree of accuracy is not possible for most people, even good shooters.

    Ethically, I think you can only justify taking a life when you believe doing so will prevent serious harm or death to others. That would mean, no, don't shoot a fleeing robber in the back even if it's legal where you live. But that rule does not mean it's wrong for soldiers to kill on the battlefield, or the state to execute a prisoner who kills/rapes/maims/kidnaps and is likely to do it again. I am no softie; I also think horse thieves should be hung (lethal injection and all being too kind for them). Least you think horse thieves are no longer a problem, I can tell you a story that happened to an acquaintance just a few years ago...
     
  3. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    After you shoot someone, reportedly you will be psychologically impacted, and should seek counseling to deal with it, EVEN IF it was really a "him or me" situation and you barely escaped with your life.

    What will you be like if you shoot someone in the back so he can't get away alive with your VCR (which will break when he drops it anyway)?

    IMHO shooting is for self-defense, not just because you can.

    You don't want to live any other way.

    Now if there are a couple guys in my house with guns, and one turns his back for a moment, that's a tactical opportunity I may not have again. In a half-second, he could whip around and shoot me dead.

    There's a time for shooting someone when his back is turned. But it's not when he's alone and clearly running away.

    For my good, not his.
     
  4. jnyork

    jnyork Member

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    No. No way. Might be legal in some states, but certainly not moral IMHO. If you catch him in the house, and you feel he is a threat to you or your family, that is a different story. (quickly dons flame suit) :rolleyes:
     
  5. numaone

    numaone Member

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    Oro:
    Interesting point, but it is my understanding that you don't need to prove a need of deadly force in your own house. Just simply unauthorized forceful entry. The burden is immensely less than a justified SD shooting on the streets.

    Please correct me if my logic is incorrect. I just want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row and I'm not going to jail for someone breaking in MY house.
     
  6. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    The key word here is "heading out the door". You know what? I don't even trust Castle Doctrine laws to protect me for shooting someone who wasn't clearly threatening my life. All it takes is a prosecutor willing to test the law and a judge willing to hear it. I'll let someone else be their guinea pig.

    If for some reason you are BETWEEN them and the door, it could make a difference. If you happen upon them when they may or may not be headed to the door, that may be different. They Utah statute says; if someone enters your home either by violence or by stealth, with the intent to commit a felony, deadly force is allowed. If they are clearly leaving, you will be asking a jury to discern whether or not this meant you were allowed to prevent the felony, or if there was justification to kill after the felony had already been committed.
     
  7. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

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    Yeah, but do you want to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, unable to erase the mental picture of the face of a 17-year-old kid on your floor, dying in a puddle of his blood, with your broken VCR next to him?

    It's not the movies.
     
  8. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    You risk going to jail if you did this.

    The "castle doctrine" doesn't give you extraordinary authority to shoot uninvited persons in your home, it only protects you in a justifiable shooting. It only presumes that there is a reasonable fear for life or grave bodily harm when someone enters your home that you don't want there. Shooting a fleeing person in the back doesn't constitute a justifiable shooting. If the threat is no longer credible, you should not shoot.
     
  9. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

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    You might get covered under the Florida law, you might not.

    Texas has a law that allows shooting ONLY for property in some circumstances, possibly even the one you describe here, but the gamble is great.

    You're risking your freedom for a VCR. And the moral question is a no brainer to me, your life is no longer in danger.

    Now, if he has just stolen a gun from your house you are in an entirely different area. Morally you may be in an entirely different place using deadly force to stop someone that has stolen a gun. It would not be a stretch to imagine that gun would be used against an innocent person.

    I believe the OP's interpretation of the Florida law is correct in that the recent "Castle Doctrine" would cover the shooting, but you really do take a risk with your freedom if you cannot very clearly explain WHY you shot.

    "My mom gave me that VCR" may not sell.

    "He had a gun" very well might.

    The law doesn't give you blanket coverage, you still have to explain why you did what you did to a certain extent.

    The exact Florida law says:

    The Florida law also says:

    So, they are going to investigate the shooting as if a crime had occurred.
    If you can't explain what you did, you're toast.
     
  10. 84B20

    84B20 Member

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    I'd be worried about two things. The cost of any legal actions that you might need to face if you shot the individual and if you let him escape what you might face after he told his friends how easy it was to relieve you of your property without injury. Quite a dilemma!

    Also, it is my understanding, if a perp is trying to get away, a number of states would not consider it a threat to your life which would make the shooting unjustifiable.
     
  11. Dan Forrester

    Dan Forrester Member

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    I do not believe it is legal to ever under any circumstances in any state (even Florida) shoot someone in the back. I have even read of cases where in the middle of a gun fight while someone was firing multiple shots the perpetrator turned around and absorbed a slug in the back getting the defender in serious trouble.

    I’m not saying I agree with that and sincerely hope someone can prove me wrong here. I believe that if someone initiates force upon another human being the defendant should be given plenty of leeway. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case as we can see with the Oklahoma pharmacist.

    Morally I don’t think it is ethical to shoot someone in the back except in limited circumstances such as armed bear (and others) have pointed out.

    Dan
     
  12. Fergy35

    Fergy35 Member

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    A situation like that happened in our area. Local man heard someone in his house. He meets the guy at the top of his stairs with a shotgun. Bad guy turns to run. Good guy takes a shot and ends up crippling the bad guy. The good guy ended up with a great deal of legal trouble. It was just long enough ago now that I do not remember if he went to jail over it (think he did), but he definitely got sued over it, by the poor (yeah right) crippled felon.

    I do not know the laws in other areas, but typically a shooting must be to protect your life or another persons life, not the VCR or DVD player. As was pointed out in a couple other posts, the moral side of it would rear its head as well. Could you sleep after shooting someone in the back (over a VCR)? I do not know how it would affect me and I hope to hell I never have to find out.

    Take care.
     
  13. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

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    I have never seen any such law, anywhere.

    If it's a justifiable shoot, where the bullet hits is not relevant.

    If someone is running away from you to get in a better position to shoot you, and you shoot them in the back, you're still defending yourself.

    You cannot make a blanket statement that "you can't shoot someone in the back".

    What it DOES do is it puts a heavier load on you the shooter to explain why you pulled the trigger.
     
  14. danprkr

    danprkr Member

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    I once heard it put this way: (paraphasing) EVERRYTHING you own costs you some portion of your LIFE. So, it's not just money. A pen might cost a buck and take you 20 seconds of life to replace. A Computer $2000 which may be 3 months of your life. A house that represents 30 years plus of your life. It all depends on the cost of the item versus your income.

    So, how much of your life are you willing to let a thief run away with? That is the question you need to ask yourself.
     
  15. Lone_Gunman

    Lone_Gunman Member

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    The question here to me is whether you are in fear of your life. If you are in fear of your life, and feel the person is a threat, then shooting him could be justified. In your scenario, you state he was heading for the door, and seem to be implying he is not a threat. Why would you want to shoot someone who is not a threat, whether it is legal or not?

    If he is not a threat, then shooting him is not only illegal but also immoral.

    I assume you would know enough not to tell the police after such a shooting that you thought he was heading for the door, but decided to shoot him anyway.

    When the event is over, you want to be able to honestly tell the police "I was in fear of my life and for the lives of my family and I had no choice but to shoot him".

    I do not see the place where the bullet enters to be all that important. As dynamic as that situation would be, it would be easy to imagine scenarios where an assailant might duck or turn at the moment you pulled the trigger, causing the bullet to enter the back.
     
  16. jakemccoy

    jakemccoy Member

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    You should probably just quote the Florida law. Your interpretation is quite a bit broader than than actually law, even though you may not think so at first glance. If you are going to make up your own interpretation, it should be narrower than the actual law, for your own sake.

    I would not shoot an intruder if the intruder were no longer a threat. Even if you have a justifiable shoot, you still run a sizable risk of being hammered in a civil law suit. Great, you were doing your part to rid the world of scum or whatever. Well, the world won't be anywhere around when the bill comes after the civil suit. Also, anytime you shoot a human, you expose yourself to criminal prosecution. Do you really want to do that over a VCR or whatever?

    To keep it simple, I will only point a gun to shoot a human if that human is an imminent threat to my life.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2009
  17. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    My policy is that I would not shoot a home invader who was clearly on his way out with stolen goods or fleeing detection.

    If he were still prowling the house looking for crimes to commit, I would consider him a threat from any direction and not give him the chance to turn on me, as per Armed Bear.
     
  18. numaone

    numaone Member

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    Does the value of the material item affect your decision? Ok perhaps not a
    $50 VCR, but a $50,000 valuable. From the florida stautes, there is already the presumption of deadly force by the intruder, even as be escapes, or atleast that's my interpretation.
     
  19. Lone_Gunman

    Lone_Gunman Member

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    I don't think the value of the item stolen has anything to do with it.
     
  20. jakemccoy

    jakemccoy Member

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    Even it it's $50,000, you still expose yourself to criminal prosecution (not to mention civil prosecution) whenever you shoot a human. You should go visit a prison if you know anybody in there. It's no joke. You may see your viewpoint as being a bit naive after you realize the gravity of being behind bars. I'm not risking my freedom over some property. I have property insurance.

    Again, I will only point a gun to shoot a human if that human is an imminent threat to my life. I would consider a burglar who's rummaging through my home to be an imminent threat to my life. I would not consider a burglar who is obviously fleeing to be an imminent threat to my life. It's a judgment call - to each, his own.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2009
  21. Deus Machina

    Deus Machina Member

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    To clarify a little: In Florida, if it's a good shoot, you can't be sued.

    Well, you will be, but if it was a good shoot, it gets tossed out.

    But shooting someone in the back? No. Not good.

    The law pretty much says that if someone breaks into your house, you're immediately in fear of your life. If he flees, that takes you out of your fear for your life.

    If he's running and yelling that he'll be back for you, that's a different story. If he's running and firing a gun behind him, that's a different story. If he's running with your stuff, according to the LEO that taught my CCL class, he's still in commission of a felony and you can shoot him.

    Alright under the law? Maybe. Under a jury? Doubtful. What you can be put in prison for sometimes doesn't match up with the lawbooks, and a DA will try to press charges if you shoot someone in the back.

    If he runs, let the cops clear it up. Not your problem, unless he returns.

    Of course, if he was fleeing with my car, or with my guns, it's safe to assume he means no legal purpose with those (harmful in the latter case) and he better be a fast catcher for that lead.

    Rule of thumb: Unless, at that exact moment in time, he needs to be physically stopped, you are not allowed, legally or morally, to shoot.
     
  22. Flame Red

    Flame Red Member

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    Do what Clint did in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Wolf Whistle and when he turns around...
     
  23. Eagles6

    Eagles6 Member

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    Your scenario assumes that you know as a cold, hard fact that the criminal will not, under any circumstances, harm you or anyone in your house. That he is actually within the doorway and you know for a fact that he is fleeing and that he is not armed and he will not turn, within a fraction of a second, and shoot you or someone else.
    If you know all this then no, don't shoot.
    Other than that it will probably be a judgment call made in a split second, in the dark or after being surprised, with your heart beating 200 bpm and adrenaline dumping into your bloodstream. Don't overthink.
     
  24. ganymede

    ganymede Member

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    As far as i know shooting someone who is running away is considered murder no matter where they are. And even if it isn't considered murder legally where you live, it's still murder. we cant just go arround shooting people who try to steal from us. now say they in your house commiting strong arm robbery and you shoot them in the back when they turn arround for a moment, thats not murder, it's taking a tactical advantage.
     
  25. maroast

    maroast Member

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    **I am NOT a lawyer** but from my interpretation of the Texas Penal code you would be justified in your action of shooting a fleeing intruder in the back. Would I do it over a VCR (or a Betamax while we're at it)? No.


    Sec. 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property:

    (2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

    (B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; and



    (3) he reasonably believes that:

    (A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means
     
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