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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Virginia: Home Invasion and Deadly Force

In considering our question of the week, an article from WSET prompted me to think on these thoughts.

If you are inside your home when someone breaks in, do you have the right to use deadly force?

My first thought was certainly yes, if someone breaks into my home, I am going to send him right to his maker. But this WSET article made me think, why would a Virginia Senate panel reject this bill from becoming law?

It revolves around the issue common and case law as opposed to code, what is the concept of self-defense?

Del. John J. Welch III, R-Virginia Beach, was the promoter of the law that would put the theory of self-defense into law. It would make it a slam dunk that if you killed a home intruder, you will be justified by the code of Virginia.

The panel decided otherwise. Based perhaps from the influence of Robert Bushnell ,who represented the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys, listen to what he said according to WSET:

"The current law is not bright and clear because the world is not bright and clear. This bill is a license to kill."Case law governing self-defense is built on "experience and reason."

His point, is that a decision needs to be made on each and every circumstance when deadly force happens when someone proclaims self-defense.

So you may wonder what constitutes self-defense in Virginia?

Here is a site that will break it down for you.

So what are your thoughts? Does everyone have the right to kill someone who invades their home?

photo by bob


At 9:14 AM, Anonymous AS said...

I am glad it didn't become law. I can just see a couple going through a divorce, the husband tries to get into the house to pick up his stuff or to see his kids... and the woman (or vice-versa) shoots the guy alleging breaking and entering...

Maybe an extreme case... but if someone can make a million dollars from hot coffee... everything is possible.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger B O B said...

Thanks for the comment as. In Virginia this has always been a gray area with many misconceptions. When I got my concealed weapons permit, one part of the instruction was what constitutes self-defense.

Self-defense with deadly force should always be the last alternative, but one that I personally would not elimate as an option.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Charlie said...

Interesting Bob! Tony Martin sent to prison for ten years, later lowered on appeal to five, for shooting an intruder climbing up his stairs at 3am in the morning in his desolate farmhouse. John Monkton city banker in London, two youths tricked there way into his house posing as postman, Monkton ended up stabbed to death, his wife, bathing their daughter upstairs came down to help her husband, was stabbed also, nearly loosing her life. In the UK two types of people are allowed guns? Farmers and criminals, and the police are not keen on farmers having guns. I know what I would do though.

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous AS said...

by the way, I am not against self-defense... I think judging each case one by one, instead of giving a "license to kill" a better way to approach it.

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

I have always felt that if someone was breaking into my house (with my kids and all), they have signed their death warrant. It is all about how you articulate the circumstances. If I awoke to an intruder, possibly armed for all I know, breaking into my home, I would be able to articulate that I felt that my life and the lives of my children were in danger, thus allowing the use of deadly force. This sounds better than saying "Well hey, he came into my house and I blasted him!"

Still, shooting someone outside the home, or over property, is not a good idea, and can well end you up in prison. I agree that a blanket law permitting deadly force is problematic, but we do need some clear cut definitons instead of it being a legal crap shoot.

There is an axiom that most police I know abide by. "It is better to be judged by 12, than carried by 6"

My sentiments exactly.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

I think it definitely needs to be taken on a case by case basis. If I were to wake up in the middle of the night to find someone in my home who didn't belong, I would do whatever I had to to protect my family.

There are all kinds of situations and I am more comfortable with it being a case by case basis.

I have always heard the person actually has to be in the house though. If the person is in the yard and you shoot them, it is a lot harder to prove self-defense. My dad used to say, if you shoot them on their way in the window and they fall back out, be sure to pull them back in before you call the police;) He was mostly kidding...I think:)

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Frank said...

Charlie, not quite an accurate statement. The intruders were shot while they were fleeing out of the windows. Wouldn't it be hard for anyone to prove self defense when you shoot someone running away from you?

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not think this self defense law is a license to kill. It allows law abiding citizens like me with two small children having to live alone because of husbands deployments to beable to sleep at night knowing if someone enters I am justified in firing my weapon. My babies sleep acroos the house from me because that's the set up of my home. If someone comes into my home uninvited I immediatly consider them a threat to the well-being of my family. I'm not gonna wait for anyone to make me a my children victims. They will become the victim of a law abiding citizen. Not passing this gives them the right to come in a do as they please to people and sue if owner fights back. Crazy.

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Rick Faulkner said...

How often has a homeowner in the Commonwealth been convicted for shooting or killing an intruder?

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why I use a taser and blunt objects -_-. While I do own a hunting rifle and shotgun, I rarely use them unless I go to the shooting range. So far I've had four burglars in my house, three of them I used my blunted objects while the last one I tased since I usually leave a few objects around but I had spring cleaning to do. I don't really think of using a gun unless they also have one in there possession or there are multiple intruders and the problem is the law changes every year in little details so I really don't want to end up in jail for a defending my family. ( funny thing I should mention is I was almost was charged with assault when one of them managed to stab me in the appendix (had to get it removed later) and he had the audacity to charge me for fracturing his arms)

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Orewon said...

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