Florida: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Law Shield Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Welcome members and fellow gun owners. In the last Members Voice video our member Tyler witnessed a criminal breaking into his car. Tyler drew his gun and the bad guys ran away.

The legal questions started pouring in, and members, you wanted to know your legal rights in your state. So here’s your U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney to give you insight on what the law says.

U.S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney James Phillips:

You’re sitting in your house watching your favorite TV show, and you hear glass breaking in your driveway. You look out the window. You see someone still in your brand-new car. What do you do? What can you do?

We are frequently asked this question by U.S. Law Shield Members. Several areas of the law are involved in this answer.

Under Florida Statute 776.013, which is commonly known as the Florida Castle Doctrine, you might believe that you have the right to use deadly force to keep someone from stealing your car.

776.013 does allow the use of deadly force against another, when the person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed, or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.

The key here, is that the law allows the use of deadly force if the vehicle is occupied. Which is not our example. Further, Florida law allows the use of deadly force to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, and it lists burglary as a forcible felony.

However it is unlikely that deadly force will be found to be reasonable and necessary to protect only an unoccupied vehicle. When your car is parked outside of your home and no one is in it, it is just another piece of property and the use of force law covering the protection of property apply.

These laws can be found in Florida Statute Section 776.031, which in relevant part reads “A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on or criminal interference with, either real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threaten to use such force.” Note that the law only allows the use of force, and not the use of deadly force. Deadly force can not be used to protect solely property in Florida with very limited exceptions.

Should you choose to use deadly force to protect your car sitting in the driveway, your attorney and the prosecutor will argue about how the law should be interpreted. And a jury will likely decide your fate. Therefore if you’re in your home, and you notice someone’s stealing your car, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1 and be the very best witness you can be.

Law Shield Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Educating you is the cornerstone of U.S. Law Shield. Thank you for being a part of our family.


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