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Old January 31, 2012, 11:26 AM   #1
Colvin
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Defending your neighbors

The typical self defense scenario involves protecting you or your family. The common practice when it comes to defending others is that of you or your family's lives are not in danger, then you must call the cops.

But consider this. What if you could easily save someone that you don't know? Like if an armed aggressor is attempting to smash the windows of your neighbors. What if you had a clear shot and could easily defend them? Is that a strong enough situation to warrant an exception to the self defense principle?

You could easily say that such a threat is a threat not only to your neighbor but also yourself, but assume that you know it is no threat. Just wondering. Thanks.

Edit: perhaps I should be more clear. The point is that would you defend thy neighbor?

Last edited by Colvin; February 2, 2012 at 05:59 PM.
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Old January 31, 2012, 11:36 AM   #2
Bartholomew Roberts
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Most states allow use of force and even deadly force to protect a third party; HOWEVER, there are serious practical problems with doing so. A couple of common ones are:

1. The person you are trying to "save" may not always appreciate it. Domestic violence between partners/relatives can often change into both beater and beatee attacking whoever intervenes.

2. You don't know the whole story of what is going on: http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=454222

In the above link, a man uses deadly force in defense of a third party and ends up killing an off-duty police officer - and one he was acquainted with even. Turns out that despite being present and in close proximity during the entire scenario, he didn't fully grasp what was going on.

This website also has an excellent discussion of the problems surrounding the question you are asking: http://corneredcat.com/Saving_the_Life_of_a_Stranger/

It is worth a read.
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Old January 31, 2012, 11:57 AM   #3
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I don't think I'd want to use deadly force for the protection of property (excluding my own house) even if its justified.

We didn't come into this world with anything and we wont have anything when we leave. It's just stuff.

So unless someone is in danger, my revolver will stay in my pocket.
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:09 PM   #4
Brian Pfleuger
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Too different issues. Someone smashing windows is completely unrelated to "self defense". Shooting them would not be an "exception", it would be unrelated. Legal or illegal, it is in no way related to "self defense".

You might intervene. You might yell over at the guy, go running to the neighbors house if they are or might be home, you might end up confronting the guy and end in a self defense shooting for one reason or another but shooting him for breaking windows in not "self defense".
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:20 PM   #5
Don H
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One thing to keep in mind about general discussions of generalized scenarios such as this: An action that may clearly be legal in one state may clearly be illegal in another. There is no definitive answer.
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:26 PM   #6
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Yell "Fire!!" Cause a distraction. Make noise. Get attention. Dial 911. Keep your distance if possible.
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:28 PM   #7
Colvin
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Assume you believe that your neighbor is in danger- the scenario is unimportant.
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:43 PM   #8
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colvin View Post
Assume you believe that your neighbor is in danger- the scenario is unimportant.
Well, but that's different. The danger aspect is critical and broken windows probably don't meet the criteria.

Regardless, if the neighbor is in danger, it's not an "exception" to rules of self defense.

It is, in legal terms, not necessarily "self defense" anyway. It is " deadly physical force" and few, if any, laws in the USA make a particular distinction between using deadly physical force in defense of self versus others.

I have as much right to defend my neighbors life as I do my own. There might be (definately are) other legal complications that involve whether or not you really know what is happening or whether the "victim" might suddenly change their mind when you shoot their abusive husband... But those are separate questions.
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:46 PM   #9
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The scenario is quite important. The laws are varied, specific at times and non-specific at others.

If you want to limit the scenario to "my neighbor is in danger of being killed; will I shoot to protect him?", the answer depends upon which neighbor it is. If your question is "Someone is breaking into my neighbors house, is that a good reason to shoot?" again it depends. Is it the crazy ex-husband coming back to in the ex-wife? or is it the local tweakers looking for a quick cash score while he is at work?

A separate question you posed is; would I shoot to protect a stranger and the answer is likely yes. But it depends. I am protecting a purse snatcher from being beat by the victim? I am thinking he will take what he has coming. Generalities are too general.

You can move the goal post all around the field in hoping to make a point or you could just tell us what you are thinking.

Details matter.
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Last edited by MTT TL; January 31, 2012 at 01:38 PM.
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Old January 31, 2012, 01:28 PM   #10
Slopemeno
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Then be a good witness.
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Old January 31, 2012, 01:38 PM   #11
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I agree with what has been said about the DV stuff, most of us know or probably have known someone who would get the #### beaten out of them, call the cops, then drop the charges only to go back to the abuser. That same person might testify AGAINST you after you shoot mr. scumbag.
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Old January 31, 2012, 02:11 PM   #12
Grant D
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Joe Horn to 911 operator: there's two burgalures in my neighbors house!
Operator: the police are on their way.
Joe Horn: theyr'e leaving with his property,I'm going to shoot them.
Operator: wait for the police.
Joe Horn: nope (shotgun racks) Boom, Boom, Two dead bad guys...no charges filed against him.
God Bless Texas!!
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Old January 31, 2012, 02:29 PM   #13
Hiker 1
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The standard for using deadly force to protect a neighbor should be the same as the standard you would use to protect yourself. Do you reasonably believe that the neighbor is in imminent danger of death of serious bodily injury, or however it is worded in your state?

There is not a lot of room for error in a scenario like this. If you're wrong, you will likely do time.
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Old January 31, 2012, 02:54 PM   #14
Glenn E. Meyer
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That is not what happened with Joe Horn - don't post silly fantasies.

He managed to convince the authorities that he acted in self-defense and had a witness to back up his claim.
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Old January 31, 2012, 03:40 PM   #15
Frank Ettin
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[1] Legally justified use of lethal force in defense of another is not vigilantism. But to be justified, such use of force is subject to the same standards as for defense of self.

[2] But if one does use lethal force in what he believes to be defense of another, he better be sure he knows what's going on and that his use of force is legally justified. A mistake can easily send him to jail.

[3] On the other hand, vigilantism is never acceptable.

And let's please keep this thread on track. These discussions tend to wander, and if this one does, it'll be shut down.
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Old January 31, 2012, 03:56 PM   #16
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Quote:
But if one does use lethal force in what he believes to be defense of another, he better be sure he knows what's going on and that his use of force is legally justified. A mistake can easily send him to jail.
And conditions the person being defended may have created can than attach to you in determining if the force is justified.

Be VERY careful.

If you neighbor runs into your house bloody from a brawl his use of lethal force may not be justified, and then your use of lethal force in his defense might not then be justified.

It really pays to understand both the statute law and the case (common) law for the jurisdiction you are in, and have at least a passing familiarity with local politics (it often drives prosecutors).

The Bloomfield Press guides to state gun laws are a decent start.

Anyone considering using a firearm for self defense should have at least looked at them for their state.

They are not painfully complicated, and have decent citations to applicable case law.

Last edited by brickeyee; January 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM.
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Old January 31, 2012, 04:16 PM   #17
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In the OP's scenario, I certainly wouldn't just start shooting. But, I would yell out and get the burglar's attention. If he fled, I'd call the cops. If he starts to become aggressive toward me, I'd defend myself.
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Old January 31, 2012, 04:21 PM   #18
FM12
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Few states allow the use of deadly force in the protection of property crimes. Thin ice. I appreciate your thoughts tho!
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Old January 31, 2012, 04:48 PM   #19
Grant D
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I have heard the 911 call... that's how it went down.
And yes he had a witness across the street, and hell to go through afterwards,also had to leave town for awhile.
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Old January 31, 2012, 04:51 PM   #20
markj
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Quote:
Like if an armed aggressor is attempting to smash the windows of your neighbors. What if you had a clear shot and could easily defend them?
Not gonna do it, wouldnt be prudent at this juncture.

Would go to jail here and lose the right to own a gun. I will call 911 then maybe turn 5 or 6 dogs loose....
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Old January 31, 2012, 05:18 PM   #21
Glenn E. Meyer
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Grant , your post was a misrepresentation to state that the 911 call was how it went down. It was the witness that saved him. Your implication was that it was an easy shoot to take down the robbers was not correct.

Let's be real here.

God may bless Texas or not but the witness was the crucial factor from all accounts. It was not an open season on BGs as you implied.
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Old January 31, 2012, 06:23 PM   #22
Bartholomew Roberts
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A common mistake on the Joe Horn shooting is that people get the impression it is OK to shoot to protect the property of a third person in Texas. The circumstances where you can legally do that in Texas are VERY limited and Joe Horn would likely have not been covered by that law.

Joe Horn's lawyer stated to the press and the grand jury that when Joe Horn confronted the men outside, they charged him and Joe Horn shot in defense OF HIMSELF, shooting one of the men in the back as he veered away at the last instant. This account was coorborated by a plainclothes officer who had arrived in response to Horn's 911 call and witnessed the entire shooting.

Horn was not real far away from having shot two men, one of them in the back, in a situation where deadly force in defense of property was not authorized and where there were no witnesses to support his version and forensic evidence was ambiguous. Throw in his 911 tape and he could have been in a world of trouble. Horn was very lucky. He was lucky he had a credible witness whose story matched his perfectly. He was lucky he had the attorney he did.
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Old January 31, 2012, 06:24 PM   #23
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Regardless of what may or may not have happened in TX, vigilantism and defense of life and limb are two very different things. Vigilantism is hunting down alleged criminals and punishing them, whether or not they are involved in or there is evidence of their involvement in the commission of a crime. It borders on terrorism, and is unacceptable in any civilized society under rule of law.

Defense of life or limb is different, you have the right to act in defense of others to prevent their death by persons or animals. Yes, I would take on a person trying to break into the neighbor's house if I knew for sure that they were home and their lives were potentially in danger. Otherwise the break-in is a burglary, and burglary is not punishable by death in our country.

I say watch fewer movies, be less scared of others, and be less judgemental in general. If you don't know exactly what is going on, don't intervene, and don't let your fantasies run away with you. And remember, you will be tried under the "reasonable man" rule (i.e. would a reasonable man have acted in this manner?).
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Old January 31, 2012, 06:25 PM   #24
Grant D
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It's never a easy shoot to take someones life.That isn't what I was implying.
The fact is you can protect your neighbors property in this state.
But his life will never be the same.
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Old January 31, 2012, 06:32 PM   #25
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IMHO your not an officer of the law so call one. The problem is you will spend more in legal fees and possibly losing your permit when you, your family or property are not a direct threat. Call 911 & report the situation to authorities. Not saying close the blinds and look the other way I just wouldn't jeopardize my lively hood or permit.
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