View Full Version : Shooting an unarmed criminal

February 7, 2006, 11:33 PM
Most scenerios are played out where it is known that the criminal has a gun. But what if you come across someone committing a crime and don't know if he has a weapon or not? You may have just a couple of seconds before he pulls a gun out on you and in that time frame of a couple of seconds you have to react where you have to recognize that the criminal does actually have a weapon where you can use deadly force because your life in now in danger and also pull your weapon out in time to get the shot off before he does.

What are the consequences legally if you shot a criminal because you thought he may of had a weapon, but didn't?

Scenerio. - You come up on a criminal trying to break into your car and he turns around towards you with his hand in his jacket pocket. He may have a weapon or he may not, but you can't wait to see as you can't let him make the first move or make the first shot and then you take the shot and it ends up he has no weapon.

February 8, 2006, 02:36 AM
Due to my small stature I would not hesitate to shoot an unarmed man possibly intoxicated or high that is bigger than me. I've read stories all the time in the paper about some kid get punched in the head once and die. I'm not taking any chances.

Either that or I will hire a bodyguard.

The circumstances may vary but the fact of the matter remains there is a lethal amount of force involved in someone of that size.

Call my view radical however the law and you will see there is a significant justification in the above situation.

All things considered, I doubt shooting a drunk would hold up well in court.

Sun Tzu
February 8, 2006, 03:59 AM

I dont know about out on the street...

Late, S Tzu

"Every man got a right to decide his own destiny..." - Bob Marley

February 8, 2006, 05:47 AM
Well I'm going to ignore the above comment about the "alibi gun" and address the first issue.

An actual weapon does not have to be present to justify the use of lethal force. It is possible for an unarmed assailant to beat a person to death and if you came across that happening lethal force could be justified in your defense of another. However I don't think that's what you were talking about. If you believe that you are in immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm you can be justified in using lethal force. But bear in mind that just because you think something doesn't make it good in court. A court will most likely judge the scenario with a "reasonable man" test. They will basically ask the jury to put a hypothetical reasonable person in the same scenario and decide what a reasonable person would have done. If a reasonable person would have believed they were in immediate danger in that same scenario then you're ok. But lets face it not everyone is reasonable. Hypothetically there could be an older now delusional combat veteran who truly believes that all people of the ethnicity he battled against in his service long ago are now secret assassins out to get him. One of these people kindly approaches him in broad daylight to ask for directions and is shot to death for it. The shooter here may likely believe he was in immediate danger but a reasonable person would not have and thus his actions would not be justified by a court of law.

Byron Quick
February 8, 2006, 06:39 AM
I'm in Georgia. If someone who is not a resident breaks into my house, state law does not require that he be armed to justify the use of lethal force.

Following the law is a good thing. Articulating the threat is a good thing.

Getting caught using a throwdown weapon, dragging someone into your house after shooting them in the yard, and other internet idiocies are all bad things. The police use these items know as experience not to mention forensic science to catch people who try this type of junk all the time.

Talk to some homicide detectives. Talk to some prosecutors. Ask them if you would be better off shooting someone because they made you wet yourself or if you should try to slip a throwdown weapon on them.

February 8, 2006, 08:31 AM
Alibi Gun, it's not a good idea to post that sort of thing. If you ever do use it you may hear your post being read to a jury in court by the opposing side.

February 8, 2006, 10:00 AM
This is the sort of thing that anti-gun people would just love to read here on TFL. Thank you so much for making gun owners look like a bunch of scofflaws. :mad:

If you are in danger or your family is in danger in your house, that is your defense. If someone has broken into your house while you are inside, here in Texas that IS justification for shooting. But as you are in California, you need to follow Byron's advice and talk to some LEO's and find out what they have to say about your "plan". :barf: :barf: :barf:

Lord have mercy.


February 8, 2006, 10:10 AM
No matter how carefully a person thinks they prepare, they still leave trace evidence on an item. Do you really want to explain to a cop why your "alibi" gun had your prints all over it, just because the latex gloves didn't work as well as thought they did based on what you saw on TV?

February 8, 2006, 10:11 AM
This is the sort of thing that anti-gun people would just love to read here on TFL. Thank you so much for making gun owners look like a bunch of scofflaws.

I concur


February 8, 2006, 10:23 AM
Here in Missouri use of force is authorized:
(3) When entry into the premises is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering physical violence to any person or being in the premises and he reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony.

In other word, if they are in your house by any means other than direct invitation - you have good reason to suspect them of intending to do you harm.

The downside to this is that the burden of proof is on the defendent - i.e. you.


February 8, 2006, 10:52 AM
i can't tell anyone what to do in the case of confronting a unarmed assailant, but i will give you a few thoughts. i know states have different laws on deadly force so its always best to know your states policies/laws. i mentioned this in other forums...its what's proven in court...not always what’s true or right. quick example...man breaks in your house, he has a knife, he enters in the rear kitchen, you hear this from the front parlor near the front entrance, in the parlor your reach in the draw and get your gun and advance to the rear house entrance in the kitchen, you see the man, he turns towards from across the room, he says i'm going to hurt you just give me your money, you point your weapon and shoot. you don't kill him but you seriously wound him. Now comes court. Defense lawyer for the BG questions you.... when you heard a noise did you call police, no...When you heard a noise did you leave the house and go for help to a neighbors and then call police...no when you grab your gun and advance towards my client and spotted him, and he stated that he wouldn't hurt you, did you have a avenue of escape towards the parlor in which you came from where the front door is to exit the house.... yes but you choose to shoot my client even though he showed no advancement towards you and even stated that he wouldn't hurt you, but you shot him anyway...yes is it fair to say that if you called the police who are trained to confront criminals and may not have to shot my client, he may have just given up to the police, or they could have use OC or a k9 to convince him to give up and therefore he wouldn't have be inflected what great bodily harm...is it possible....mmmm yes. Ok, you see where i'm going here, sounds stupid, but in court its very real.

February 8, 2006, 11:19 AM
I am a lawyer admitted to practice law in three states. I have also been a federally licensed dealer. The number of times I have heard or read this type of question is astounding!

1. No one ever stops and intellectually debates this type of question before engaging in the conduct of running away, standing by, engaging or anything else.
2. the simple answer is that there might or might not be civil and/or criminal consequences.
3. the number of people I have met or heard of who are in jail or on trial in the last 30 years who are there because he decided "to tell the truth" when he should have kept his mouth shut is mindboggling.
4. don't turn common sense questions into "legal questions".

In my discussions with other adults, I have learned that they obey laws simply because the laws are in their self interest.

February 8, 2006, 11:21 AM
That's why shot placement is key. If they're in your house, it's MUCH easier to shoot to kill than to try to wound them.

My state also has the castle doctrine, none of that duty to retreat from MY DOMAIN bullcrap. Pretty much, in NH, you can meet a force presented to you with whatever force you choose, none of the monday morning quarterbacking crap laws here.

I don't like fist fighting. It's not really my forte, and it hurts. I'm just glad my state legislators don't feel the sick desire to force me to fight with hardened criminals who have 50 or more pounds on me.:D

Just know your state.

February 8, 2006, 11:45 AM
in my years of police work and now retired, the only thing that matters in court is what you can prove, if you can't prove the truth, the truth don't mean nothing. if you can prove a lie, you have a case.

February 8, 2006, 11:52 AM
Most scenerios are played out where it is known that the criminal has a gun. But what if you come across someone committing a crime and don't know if he has a weapon or not? You may have just a couple of seconds before he pulls a gun out on you and in that time frame of a couple of seconds you have to react where you have to recognize that the criminal does actually have a weapon where you can use deadly force because your life in now in danger and also pull your weapon out in time to get the shot off before he does.

Just because I come across someone committing a crime doesn't mean I have to play policeman. I am not one, and I do not intend to play at being one.

If I have a couple of seconds before he pulls a gun on me, I probably have a couple of seconds to skedaddle, or at least take cover.

My gun will be used if I think I need to in order to protect myself or family member or, possibly, other innocent person from death or serious bodily injury. Whether I think a person can inflict that may certainly be affected by whether I think he is armed or not, but, ultimately, whether he is actually armed, if it is relevant at all, is something that will get sorted out later.

See Erick Gelhaus' post above.

February 8, 2006, 12:19 PM
I concur with Springmom and others...Alibi Gun:rolleyes: ..the fact that you posted this just deflated your chances of using it, and you will be in hot water if you do legitimately shoot someone who tries to rob you with a fake gun. What cops wouldn't check your computer if your involved in a suspicious shooting???

Anyway back to the original thread...you walk up on a guy who is robbing your car and he is not armed..can you blast him..No...but if he threatens your life or of your family...Yes. Life needs to be in danger. If you catch the guy robbing your car, you walk up on him, and he escapes, let him go and call 911. Shooting him in the back is manslaughter. If the guy is robbing your car , and you approach and he says "get in the car" or "Give me your money" and you feel you life is in danger, blast away.

February 8, 2006, 01:12 PM
it's MUCH easier to shoot to kill than to try to wound them.


What ever happened to "shoot until threat is neutralized"?


February 8, 2006, 03:53 PM
Remember, you just can't say that you were in fear of your life, you have to prove it, and it may take more proof than a BG's verbal threat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against taking someone out, but if at all possible...do not shoot. I know some states have different laws so act accordingly. JMO

February 8, 2006, 04:31 PM
I know we've all scanned the threads about LEO's shooting unarmed criminals. they get off because they can state why they believed that criminal had a weapon and was about to use it.

The same goes for every individual out there. You are allowed, at least in TN, as a private citizen to stop a crime in progress and "arrest" any individual committing that crime. I'd make sure it was a violent crime before drawing a weapon. But to me, it's simple: Draw weapon (if required) demand immediate compliance. Demand their hands be within sight at all times. Make it known that if they make any moves that might look like they are going for a weapon that you will shoot them. Should they make any movement that you believe is going for a weapon, shoot them. When the police get there, tell them you'd like to wait to make a statement until you've talked to your lawyer. (hopefully, the victim you saved will tell some of the story however)

February 8, 2006, 05:13 PM
It is harder on the street, but you have the factor that you are not in your element of control, so you feel less safe.

In your house, how can you be sure just because they came in unarmed that they remain so. Do you have knives? Can you make sure they are all accounted for from any room of the house? Ok, then. All threats inside the house are assumed armed and hostile.

February 8, 2006, 06:10 PM
thank goodness I live in Texas. BG in house, deadman, no questions asked.:)

February 8, 2006, 06:17 PM
thank goodness I live in Texas. BG in house, deadman, no questions asked.


We may have left Texas, but we kept our House there...

One day we'll return :)


February 8, 2006, 07:12 PM
"he shoulda armed himself":D

February 8, 2006, 08:42 PM
In Arizona, if he's in your house then you can shoot, or anywhere he made an unlawful entry. but I would only shoot if I belived my well being was at stake, thinging he mignt have a gun in his pocket is not a reason to kill a man. To kill someone is a terrible thing, thinking someone might hurt you is not reason enought. MO

February 8, 2006, 09:45 PM
jcoii: Funny I thought the same thing. One of my favorite movies. To the scenario: Definietly depends on your state, and the situation. I'm in NY. In the house you have no obligation to retreat and may use deadly force if you reasonably believe you are in danger. So you could go into the back of your haouse and pass as many exits as you want, and not call the police. If there's a guy in your kitchen, you draw down on him and he doesn't retreat, you've met the defense of justification criteria in NY. However, it is expressly written that you may not use deadly force to stop someone from stealing your property. If you look outside your house and they are stealing the car, you cannot use deadly force to stop it. If you are out in the streets, you'll have to prove you were in danger of losing life. The guy would have to stop breaking in to the car and advance toward you, then ignore your command to stop. Even then its sticky. The jury will want to see you prove you could not safely retreat. If you can back away or some such thing, you'll have to. Its tough. There's no easy rule if you are outside of a work or home environment. the guy's 6'4"and 300lbs, and he starts coming at you when you asked him to please not steal your car, you'll have a good case if you pop him. especially if you are 5'3" and/or a woman. But if he's 5' 1" and your 6'5" and he's unarmed, your in trouble. Personally, I'd confront anyone stealing my car, what happens next will be dependent on the other variables particular to the situation. But whatever, I would not plant a weapon on the guy. The detectives will see through that like they're looking through a window.

kennybs plbg
February 9, 2006, 12:34 AM
I'd suggest you read Article 35 in the NYS Penal Code again.

kenny b

February 9, 2006, 01:12 AM
if someone is in your house...even in TX, yes you can shoot. But be prepared of the over protective legal system in america.:(