Florida: Protecting Neighbors Property

This is a discussion on Florida: Protecting Neighbors Property within the Carry & Defensive Scenarios forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Florida law is a bit vague when it comes to protecting a neighbors property. The respective section of the law states: 776.031 Use of force ...

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Thread: Florida: Protecting Neighbors Property

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array PaulJ's Avatar
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    Florida: Protecting Neighbors Property

    Florida law is a bit vague when it comes to protecting a neighbors property. The respective section of the law states:
    776.031 Use of force in defense of others.--A person is justified in the use of force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other's trespass on, or other tortious or criminal interference with, either real property other than a dwelling or personal property, lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his or her immediate family or household or of a person whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect. However, the person is justified in the use of deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.
    I did try to highlight the important parts. My interpretation of it:
    - I am not allowed to shoot for simple "trespass".
    - "Burglary" is a forcible felony.

    But what about the part where it says: "whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect" ? I am typically not legally obligated to watch my neighbors property. Gutmacher writes in his Florida Firearms law book: "Unless you're a security guard hired to protect the property, or an employee on the premises, I think you better just call the police. There may be an exception where a nieghbor or friend has actually agreed to protect his neighbor's property - but I haven't found any case law on this".

    in short: What do people think. If it is a burglary, then the first part of the statute does not apply, and deadly force is legal even if you do not have a legal obligation to protect the neighbors property.

    OR

    would it be better to formally (in writing) agree on on protecting each others property?
    I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. (Thomas Jefferson)

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array David in FL's Avatar
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    Do you have Jon Gutmacher's book?

    He discusses the use of deadly force in detail and specifically with respect to the defense of property. It's pretty involved so I won't even try to recap it here, but the bottom line is that in a situation like you describe, reasonableness in choosing to apply deadly force is going to come into play. It's one thing to use deadly force to stop an active rape......quite another to do so to stop someone from walking out your neighbor's back door with a toaster under their arm.

    Personally, if I see someone burglarizing my neighbors house, I'm calling 911 and taking note of anything possible to enable the police to do their job in catching the thieves......
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

    Theodore Roosevelt

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    In the case of a burglary of a neighbors house, I would not use deadly force to stop it. That is what the phone and 911 are for. Make the call and be a good witness.

    would it be better to formally (in writing) agree on on protecting each others property?
    I would NEVER under any circumstances put anything in writing or make a verbal agreement, about protecting another person, or their property. IMO to do so is asking for trouble. A lawyer will paint you as a LEO wannabe at best, and a vigilante looking for an excuse to shoot someone in the worst case.
    Last edited by archer51; January 12th, 2009 at 11:08 AM. Reason: added thought

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    Ron
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    PaulJ, Archer51 has given good advice. I strongly suggest that, if the situation should ever arise, you abide by that advice.
    "It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

    J. R. R. Tolkien

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    Member Array SleazyRider's Avatar
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    Insurance policies protect personal property; firearms protect innocent lives.

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    VIP Member Array Janq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SleazyRider View Post
    Insurance policies protect personal property; firearms protect innocent lives.
    Bingo! ^^
    And plus one to David, Archer, and Ron.

    Taking life, putting your own life, and the hard earned acquired and saved wealth of your family all on the line to save your neighbors lawn mower, Hupmobile, or Best Buy bought flat screen TV?!

    I mean think about that for a minute.
    All items that are insured, or should be!, and if they aren't then they are considered to be of little to no value by the neighbor anyway (!) and they can be easily replaced via a trip to Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sears, or the by All State and Nationwide.
    Seriously think about this. How much sense does it make to risk your freedoms, all of your monies and further monies you don't have toward mounting a defense case alone on the criminal justice side alone and having to spend your kids college fund and your wife 401K or IRA....all because you wanted to stop some dirt bag from stealing the neighbors Huffy.

    Sleazy Rider said it really well.

    Don't get me wrong I'm not for thieves and thievery nor do I appreciate as much.
    But lets be realistic. This is life and living in modern day America, rather than a dime store novel speaking to 'justice' at a time and generation long ago gone from actuality.

    Notable exception though to all of the above are those few persons who live in Texas, where as based on results just about anybody can seemingly shoot at anyone for any dang reason, and pretty much not have to sweat legal repercussions be it by the po-po and/or a not likely to convict jury of their peers.

    - Judge Joe Horn, 'Neighbor'
    "Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. " - Robert A. Levy

    "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman." - Florida Div. of Licensing

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    jfl
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    As you probably know by now, I am adamantly against hard rules for dynamic situation; it can get you in trouble, or worse...

    This being said I agree that, in most cases, you should let the police handle it; however each situation is a judgment call, depending on many parameters.
    The more knowledgeable you are the better will that call be.
    If it is a situation you might get into, check with a lawyer; telling the Judge "well I saw that on Internet" is not going to help
    The first rule of a gunfight: "Don't be there !"
    The second rule: "Bring enough gun"

    jfl
    (NRA Life Member/Instructor - GOA - IDPA - GSSF - ex-IHMSA)

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    VIP Member Array tns0038's Avatar
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    My neighbors are also some of my closest friends.

    Beside getting together all the time, we keep an eye on each otherís house, and toys parked in the yard.

    A few months ago, I noticed a strange pickup truck parked at my neighborís house. I knew he was out of town, the rest of the month so I walked over to his house to investigate.

    When I got there I found a friend of his out back cleaning and taking care of the pool.

    Not a big deal, but Iím glad I walked over instead of calling the COPs.

    So, the way I see it is, Iím going to look after my neighbors house, like I would look after mine.

    I have not nor would I shoot someone for simple theft.

    However, if they attack me, or threaten me, then thatís a different story.

  10. #9
    Ron
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    Quote Originally Posted by tns0038 View Post
    .

    So, the way I see it is, Iím going to look after my neighbors house, like I would look after mine.

    I have not nor would I shoot someone for simple theft.

    However, if they attack me, or threaten me, then thatís a different story.
    No argument whatsoever with that. I do the same with my neighbors.
    "It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

    J. R. R. Tolkien

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    Senior Member Array PaulJ's Avatar
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    I think the answers clarified my initial question :-). (and good to bounce stuff like this off the group).

    Shooting just for "breaking and entering" would be bad and not appropriate, not even for my own home. Lets say I come home, and see someone working on the door, a call to 911 would probably be more appropriate assuming the house is empty. If I know someone is in the house and probably sleeping, then things get more complex. In the case of a neighbor, I may not know for sure who is in the house.

    I do have Gutmacher's book, and will read the respective sections again. But in part he admits that this section of the law is not perfectly clear and not yet proven in court.

    as tns0038 said, my neighbors are some of my best friends, and we routinely call each other if we see odd cars parked or things like that. I do feel responsible to protect them.
    I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. (Thomas Jefferson)

  12. #11
    Ron
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulJ View Post
    I think the answers clarified my initial question :-). (and good to bounce stuff like this off the group).
    I do have Gutmacher's book, and will read the respective sections again. But in part he admits that this section of the law is not perfectly clear and not yet proven in court.
    Here is the problem: Since the law in this area has not yet been established, you do not, repeat, do not, want to be the case where the law is established, to your everlasting regret. Jail time, and possible financial ruin.

    Trust me on this PaulJ, I know from whence I speak.
    "It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

    J. R. R. Tolkien

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    Ex Member Array JOHNSMITH's Avatar
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    My advice would be to NOT try to defend property with deadly force in this state. Unless you believe they are an IMMEDIATE and lethal threat to you... just call 911 and try to be a good witness, take pictures/video if possible.

    Also, keep in mind that generally, the castle doctrine means inside your home - not in your yard, your neighbor's yard, etc. Those areas fall under regular self-defense laws...

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