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Old November 17, 2011, 12:56 AM   #46
BillCA
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Join Date: November 28, 2004
Location: Silicon Valley, Ca
Posts: 7,087
Quote:
Originally Posted by tyme
The problem I have with use of lethal force to stop a fleeing robber/burglar from fleeing with stolen property is simple. Those laws were designed I hope primarily to protect important property that's someone's livelihood. That's fine. But too many gun-toting law&order types would use such a law as justification to shoot a fleeing burglar/robber to prevent loss of any property even if it's insignificant to their livelihood or well being. While the law makes it legal in a state like Texas to use lethal force in such a situation, assuming all the requirements are met, I think it goes against the intent, or what I think should be the intent, of the law.
We're in general agreement on this part. If someone is in my driveway stealing my car, that -- IMHO -- should be the equivalent of the Old West crime of stealing a man's horse. I use my car to make a living, even if it's just to drive a few miles in each direction. Depriving me of it not only costs me money, but makes me vulnerable in other ways.¹

The problem is that we cannot put a definitive dollar value on material goods versus a thief's life. Stealing a 42" HDTV from Donald Trump's vacation home will hurt him a lot less than stealing a 19" Color portable from someone living in public housing. Nor does our system of laws permit making the distinction based on "class" (rich v. poor for example). Laypersons may believe Mr. Trump is merely inconvenienced while believing the poor person was "substantially damaged", however this is based on community morality more than codified law.

The real problem is that theft is wrong and, with rare exception, it is always wrong. Laws distinguish between misdemeanor (petty) theft and felony grand theft, usually by the cost of the item(s) stolen. Stealing a cell phone may fall into the "petty theft" category, yet also be a serious theft if the person relies on that phone for a living (e.g. a consultant, doctor, repairman). So where do we draw the line? When a man is in your garage taking items, you can't value that theft without knowing what he's taking.

A thief is a person who thinks he has as more rights to your property than you do. He disregards the normal boundaries that legitimate citizens respect - property lines, doors, windows, locks, etc. He shows his contempt for property rights and in some cases may show his contempt for your life. ² He may enter locked places, causing damage on top of the theft (which may cost more to fix than the theft). In short, he has spit upon the laws and societal rules and will do as he pleases.

Catching such a person in the act carries inherent risks. What starts as a petty crime can quickly turn into a lethal encounter when the thief decides his departure is more important than your life.

I don't advocate shooting at the fleeing thief since a personal threat is diminishing. A thief caught in the act, who fails to comply with your commands and/or makes threats or threatening moves has, by his actions, declared himself outside the law -- and I consider such people an immediate threat to my safety.

Most thieves are self-employed. As such, they should carry their own insurance against common hazards of their jobs -- falls, cuts, dog bites, blunt force trauma and gunshots from angry victims. His failure to look after his own welfare should not be construed to obligate his victim to do so.


¹ Lacking a car, one becomes dependent upon public transit where assaults are more frequent, exposure to airborne illnesses and/or weather extremes, etc.
² Some thieves set fires to cover their crimes, regardless of the proximity of others. Some will threaten the owner with a weapon to prevent capture or losing his loot.
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