State law posted, legalities of shooting burglar or home invader?

This is a discussion on State law posted, legalities of shooting burglar or home invader? within the Home (And Away From Home) Defense Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I live in Rhode Island and am having some animated discussions about the use of deadly force. As I read the law (copied below), it ...

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Thread: State law posted, legalities of shooting burglar or home invader?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array Chevy-SS's Avatar
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    State law posted, legalities of shooting burglar or home invader?

    I live in Rhode Island and am having some animated discussions about the use of deadly force. As I read the law (copied below), it appears that I would be justified to shoot someone who has broken into my home. A LEO friend insists (even for a 'home invasion') that I would need to be shooting only in self-defense, or I would end up in jail. Is my LEO friend right? If I ended up shooting an unarmed burglar or a 'home invader', would I be heading off to jail?

    Look, I certainly don't want to shoot anyone, for any reason. But do I need to wait for the burglar or 'home invader' to start shooting first? Or am I duty-bound to give some sort of notice prior to shooting?


    Rhode Island General Law - TITLE 11
    Criminal Offenses - CHAPTER 11-8
    Burglary and Breaking and Entering - SECTION 11-8-8

    11-8-8 Injury or death Defense. In the event that any person shall die or shall sustain a personal injury in any way or for any cause while in the commission of any criminal offense enumerated in 11-8-2 11-8-6, it shall be rebuttably presumed as a matter of law in any civil or criminal proceeding that the owner, tenant, or occupier of the place where the offense was committed acted by reasonable means in self-defense and in the reasonable belief that the person engaged in the criminal offense was about to inflict great bodily harm or death upon that person or any other individual lawfully in the place where the criminal offense was committed. There shall be no duty on the part of an owner, tenant, or occupier to retreat from any person engaged in the commission of any criminal offense enumerated in 11-8-2 11-8-6.



    11-8-2 Unlawful breaking and entering of dwelling house.
    Link to full description of 11-8-2



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  3. #2
    Member Array shorty82's Avatar
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    It says "...in the reasonable belief that the person engaged in the criminal offense was about to inflict great bodily harm or death upon that person..."

    In my mind anyone breaking into an occupied house is there to cause harm or death and I personally consider that reasonable. The question do the RI courts consider it reasonable?

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    VIP Member Array JonInNY's Avatar
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    First, let me say that my opinion is in no way a legal one; consult an attorney to be sure.

    That said, the law (as you posted it) states: "There shall be no duty on the part of an owner, tenant, or occupier to retreat from any person engaged in the commission of any criminal offense ."

    In my opinion that gives you the right to protect yourself in your residence if you feel threatened. I would assume that a person that you do not know, breaking into your home, is up to no good.

    Of course, you do not want to shoot anyone. That should be a last resort. If retreat is possible; if you have no family members in the home to protect, and you can remove yourself safely; that would be my first choice. Get out, call 911, and let the professionals handle it. Keep in mind that taking a life, even in your home, can lead to a lot of headaches and legal expenses. Consider other option first, if possible.

    Of course, if you are directly threatened, you have every right to protect yourself in any way possible!
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    VIP Member Array Hiram25's Avatar
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    Someone breaks into your home, especially at night when it's very dark. You can not really tell if they are armed or not. Even given this if they are not armed and come towards you they can do great bodily harm without a handgun, you can't always see a knife especially in the dark. Since the law states you need not retreat, I'm going to drop him if he comes towards me in the dark. If one of us is going to go to court for killing the other one, I'll take the trip.

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    Member Array Beretta's Avatar
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    Like what JonInNy said, Consult an attorney to be sure.

    However: [quote]"acted by reasonable means in self-defense and in the reasonable belief that the person engaged in the criminal offense was about to inflict great bodily harm or death upon that person or any other individual lawfully in the place where the criminal offense was committed."[quote]

    Someone breaking into your home uninvited in day or night hours isnt collecting for the red cross. The intruder doesnt have the best intentions in mind. The intruder doesnt have to have a firearm to inflict great bodily harm. So I feel it would be reasonable to believe the intruders intentions are to cause death or great bodily harm. Just my .02
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    VIP Member Array MitchellCT's Avatar
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    You should probably call a lawyer and discuss the matter.

    Seeing as I actually am one, and that I've PM'd you my cell number...well. You do the math.

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Chevy:

    Quote Originally Posted by Chevy-SS View Post
    As I read the law (copied below), it appears that I would be justified to shoot someone who has broken into my home. A LEO friend insists (even for a 'home invasion') that I would need to be shooting only in self-defense, or I would end up in jail. Is my LEO friend right?

    You're always justified in defending yourself against crime. The only questions really concern what level of force, and under what circumstances. It's called being an upstanding person, an innocent, being attacked by a criminal. Where it gets sticky is in the fine print. States all do it differently.

    I am not an attorney. As you're asking for a legal interpretation, you really should take the advice of the others and speak with a competent attorney in this subject matter, of Rhode Island's use-of-force and firearms statutes.

    I'm not familiar with Rhode Island's statutes on either firearms or use of force, but it seems pretty clear that this statute is the hateful, spiteful anti-gunner types in this country call a "Make My Day" law. We generally term it "Castle Doctrine."

    It's a very, very good thing to have, from the perspective of an upstanding person who might one day find it necessary to use deadly force to defend oneself.


    From the wording in that statute, it does several things for you:

    • It legally defines criminal intrusion (by force) into your home as being the equivalent to having threatened you and yours with death or great bodily harm, simply by being an intrusion into your home. Forcible entry is taken to be a deadly threat, so long as it's your abode.
    • It specifically states you have no duty to retreat or withdraw prior to defending yourself or others.
    • It essentially legally acknowledges that you have every right, inside your home under these circumstances, to use whatever force you deem necessary, up to and including the use of deadly force, to defend you and yours against the intruder(s).



    That's pretty great, if in fact you end up using force against another person. Not every state has such a presumption of innocence, such a presumption of deadly threat on the part of the criminal intruder.

    In many other states, it's bloody difficult to make the claim you acted reasonably and responsibly, if you dare lift a finger to defend yourself, specifically because there is a presumption (however wrong and silly) that if someone's harmed and you're still standing, that YOU are highly likely to be the bad guy, even if it's your own home. (How dumb is that?)

    Rhode Island seems to have gotten it right.

    That statute is not, however, a legal presumption of innocence, in the sense of flipping who's responsible for proving that you acted rightly, if charges are brought against you. That would be nice. Perhaps one of the other elements of the "Castle" statutes indicate this, when R.I. implemented this set of laws.

    That statute also does nothing to defend you against silly, spurious civil lawsuits from the criminal or his/her estate, in the event that you're legally exonerated for daring to stop his/her criminal butt from attacking you. Perhaps that, too, is in one of the other "Castle" type laws that R.I. has. I don't know.

    Your friend is also correct: Unless you're using force on someone else in defense, then you're a criminal. Well, that goes without saying, really. If you're going to be engaging in the use of deadly force, you really had better be shooting someone ONLY in defense of yourself or others, else you're going to have much to answer for. He's right. But then, that's all common sense.

    That said, since your questions are regarding your states laws as they relate to your use of force, and specifically your potential use of deadly force, you really should speak with your attorney. Your attorney should be very competent in the subject matter, and be skilled in the defense of the justifiable self-defense case.
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    Member Array automan's Avatar
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    Seems pretty clear that any burglar puts himself at risk breaking into one's home. You don't know what a burglar will do to you; he could kill you or not. The code presumes he means to harm you.

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    VIP Member Array BugDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by automan View Post
    Seems pretty clear that any burglar puts himself at risk breaking into one's home. You don't know what a burglar will do to you; he could kill you or not. The code presumes he means to harm you.
    That's how it reads to me.

    paraphrased:

    If injured while committing a crime, as defined by quoted codes, it is presumed as a matter of law (burden of proof is otherwise) that the rightful occupier acted by reasonable means and in the reasonable belief that the intent was to cause harm.

    But hey, I'm not a lawyer and reading comprehension was never my strong point...I was more into math and physics.
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    Member Array mfcmb's Avatar
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    Your LEO friend might be right (or might be wrong). Regardless of how a statue reads, it's case law (how judges have ruled) that really matters. Sometimes case law will gut what seem like clear provisions of a statute. So unless you know the relevant case law, you really don't know what the "effective" law is in your state.
    In the heat of the moment, what matters is what your body knows -- not what your mind knows.

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    Senior Member Array wjh2657's Avatar
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    The hitch is that it doesn't really matter whether you had reasonable belief. First it depends on whether LEO/Prosecutor believes it was reasonable. Second shot is whether jury believes it was reasonable (if it goes to trial, likely circumstance in most states).
    Retired Marine, Retired School Teacher, Independent voter, Goldwater Conservative.

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    Senior Member Array Chevy-SS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MitchellCT View Post
    You should probably call a lawyer and discuss the matter.

    Seeing as I actually am one, and that I've PM'd you my cell number...well. You do the math.

    Thanks for the free consultation!

    And thanks to everyone else for commenting.

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    Member Array user's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chevy-SS View Post
    ...A LEO friend insists (even for a 'home invasion') that I would need to be shooting only in self-defense, or I would end up in jail. Is my LEO friend right? ...
    Don't ever rely on legal advice from cops. A cop is not an attorney, and only has enough training in law to do his job. And they don't realize they can be sued for legal malpractice if they give bad advice.
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    Nothing I say as "user" should be taken as either advertising for attorney services or legal advice. Legal questions should be presented to a competent attorney licensed to practice in the relevant state.

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    Senior Member Array Chevy-SS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by user View Post
    Don't ever rely on legal advice from cops.......
    I don't intend to.

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