Can You Shoot a Thief? | Virginia

Can I defend my property? Consider the following scenario.

It’s midnight and you awaken to the sound of breaking glass somewhere outside the front of your home. You get out of bed, run to your front window, and look outside and you see a masked man rummaging through your car parked in your driveway with the door pried wide open. What can you legally do to stop him?

According to Virginia law, you have the legal right to order the masked man who was trespassing and burglarizing your vehicle to leave your property. If he refuses to leave, then you may lay hands on him in a proper manner solely to expel him from your property. You may also use as much force as reasonably necessary (such as using your hands in a proper manner) so as to protect your property, as long as you do not commit an assault and battery or a breach of the peace.

Caution: you cannot use deadly force under these circumstances. You also are not permitted to threaten the use of deadly force, such as brandishing a firearm, solely to defend your personal property or to expel the trespasser from your property. A good recommendation would be to call the police and get the authorities involved.

Let’s change the scenario a bit: It’s now midnight and you awaken to the sound of broken glass at your front door. You walk into your living room and discover the front door is wide open. What can you do? Many people think that you can legally shoot any stranger you find in your house. That is not the case in Virginia and to do so could likely be the use of excessive deadly force. In Virginia, there is no Castle Statutory Doctrine law that has been created by the legislature.

However, the Supreme Court of Virginia has held that you are not required to retreat if assaulted in your home or on your property. You may stand your ground and use such means as are absolutely necessary to repel your assailant from your home or to prevent your attacker’s forcible entry. This is essentially an example of justifiable self-defense and defense of others.

If you reasonably fear that you or another are in imminent danger of being killed or in imminent danger of great bodily harm, then you may use no more force than what is reasonably necessary to protect yourself and another from the perceived harm under the circumstances. Remember, in this scenario, you are actually defending yourself and your family or another, and not merely defending your real estate or property.

Call U.S. LawShield and asked to speak to your Independent Program Attorney if you had any questions about defending your property in Virginia.

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