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Defense Of Property


Generally One may use reasonable force to protect one’s property after making a verbal demand that the invasion of the property be stopped.



1. Reasonable Force The minimum amount of force that would be necessary to protect the property. Only reasonable force can be used in the defense of property.

Force may not be used to recapture property that has been permanently dispossessed.

Deadly force may only be used to defend property under the following circumstances:

i. When its use is necessary to prevent the burglary of a dwelling; or
ii. When there is a threat to the safety of the defender.

2. Verbal Demand A verbal demand is not required if harm or violence will occur immediately, or if verbal requests will be useless.
3. Mistake A mistake may affect the validity of a use of force in defense of property.

Mistake of Danger If an owner mistakenly but reasonably believes the use of force is necessary, the use is privileged.

Mistake of Privilege If an owner mistakenly believes that an intruder is a trespasser, but the intruder really has a privilege to trespass, the use of force is not privileged.

4. Booby Traps The use of booby traps is privileged only up to the amount of force an owner would be allowed to use had the owner been present. Exception: owners are never allowed to use a booby trap that causes death, even if they would have been allowed to use deadly force had they been present. The law prizes life over property.

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