The Defense Of Mere Property


One of the longest-standing tropes surrounding the armed citizen lawfully defending themselves is armed/forceful defense of property. Texas’ statutes are frequently referenced – though rarely directly cited! – when it comes to this talking point. 

What we don’t want to do is rehash the same old stuff. We’ve all been there; should you, shouldn’t you, taking life (or potentially taking it) should only occur if a threat to life is being made vs its my stuff, etc. 

Instead, this is to point out some aspects that most people don’t think about. This isn’t an attempt to convince you of anything; this is to get you to think about the idea with some additional layers of reality that few people really consider. 

Is It Worth Defending Other People’s Property? 

Some go so far as to defend other’s property, intervening in shoplifting and other petty robberies and thefts. 

The idea has been brought up that intervening in shoplifting is not a good idea. Not only is it usually a petty crime, but there’s also the fact that retail stores usually have theft insurance. 

Take, for instance, the famous case of the woman who shot at shoplifters outside a Home Depot in Detroit about eight years ago. It made national headlines – here’s the story from TIME magazine – and it cost her her carry permit. 

Home Depot is a multinational corporation with over $157 billion in annual revenue. 

So, something to bear in mind about the defense of property is just whose property you’re defending. Putting your life at hazard in the confrontation, and further your freedom to prevent a corporate megalith from losing a few bucks, is just idiotic when you start to think about it.  

If you think lethal force against another human is justified over mere property…it behooves you to carefully consider exactly what circumstances you consider it justified in. 

Oh…and just because you think it is doesn’t mean the legal system does. 

Legal Gray Areas Can Result In Trials

JudgeAs most are aware, a perfect claim of self-defense is one where a person used force to defend themselves under unquestionable circumstances.

Anything that occurs outside of those bounds is a legal gray area. That leaves everything in the hands of police investigators and your local prosecutor. They decide if you get arrested, if you get charged, or whether to refer the case (if applicable) to a grand jury. 

What that means is their interpretation of the law – which you don’t know beforehand – is what you have to satisfy to avoid charges. 

Take the George Zimmerman case as an example of how that works. 

Was his claim of self-defense the cleanest? No, but it wasn’t without merit, which meant it was a gray area, and – due to the optics and the court of public opinion – a more zealous prosecutor was brought in to bring the stiffest charges possible. Charging him with second-degree murder backfired, of course, but the point is acts of supposed self-defense that occur in the gray area open you up to the exact same predicament. 

Is your stuff really worth risking that? 

Your Legal Costs Aren’t Just Yours

Court CostsImagine you hypothetically catch somebody stealing your car. 

Obviously, cars are more valuable than just the mere cost; they can have sentimental value, they can be/are necessary for earning a living, and in a lot of places, are the only feasible mode of transportation. 

Active Self Protection’s Jon Correia has said a number of times that he’d rather just make an insurance claim than shoot a car thief, and it always gets heat in the comments. 

Consider this: most car insurance policies have a $250 to $1000 deductible (for full-coverage policies), so the typical deductible is…what? About $500? That’s what a stolen vehicle will cost you: that and a bit of time finding a new one. 

What happens if you actually DID shoot someone trying to steal your car? Those would be tenuous circumstances for a claim of self-defense, and plenty of people have been prosecuted for shooting a car thief in the act.  

You’d almost certainly be arrested and possibly charged…and that’s when the numbers get spooky. The typical cost of a legal defense in a manslaughter case can be anywhere from $75,000 to well over $1 million…

…but most people don’t consider the cost of prosecution. 

According to the Rand Corporation, a typical murder or manslaughter case tends to cost $22,000 to $44,000. They also found that the cost of typical law enforcement response and investigation for murder or manslaughter was over $130,000. 

About a decade ago, there was just such a case in the area I live in. (The Gail Gerlach case, if you want to look it up.) A plumber caught a young man trying to steal his work van. He drew his gun, fired and killed the car thief, and claimed he was starting to reach for a weapon or possibly to put the van in reverse. 

Gerlach was exonerated at trial, but what not everyone necessarily knows is that since Gerlach used a public defender – who hired co-counsel and expert witnesses – the cost of the defense was placed on the city and county (Spokane, Wash.) who had to pay $221,574 for the cost of the defense. 

And bear in mind that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 82 percent of non-federal felony defendants use a public defender.

George Zimmerman’s trial – he too used a public defender – cost the state of Florida over $2 million. That’s how much it cost his fellow Floridians for him to get into that fix. 

Now, this isn’t to say that we should overlook grand theft auto or any other crime, far from it. 

This is instead to say that a person who engages in a questionable shoot over property may be trying to prevent a loss of theirs but imposes one on everyone else. 

So again…not to rehash the idea of the merits of use of force in the defense of property. The idea is to bring up that there are layers. 

Read the full article here


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