Self-Defense. In case this is the first article you are reading from ConcealedCarry.com, we take it pretty seriously. You likely hear stories very often of citizens, under life-threatening circumstances, putting their lives on the line to defend themselves or others from criminals who mean them harm. But are there times when defending yourself may cause more harm than good? Let's take a look at an example of defending yourself that sees a lot of people give a lot of different answers regarding the best way to handle it. Carjacking.
CARJACKING vs. CAR THEFT
Now there are two very different legal definitions that we should talk about before going more in-depth. Carjacking vs. Car Theft. Car Theft is an incredibly prevalent crime in our country with the FBI's 2016 crime report stating that over 760,000 took place across the nation during the calendar year, losing U.S. citizens $5.9 billion in property during that time.
Carjacking, on the other hand, is much different. Massachusetts actually refers to it by what should be its dictionary definition, “assault with the intent to steal a vehicle”. So going forward, know that there is a difference between the two and that there are different legal barriers for both, with regards to your ability to legally use your firearm.
As many of you know, gun law between states in the U.S. can be quite confusing. Even in reading this article you may see some information that does not pertain to you simply because of your state's stance regarding “Stand Your Ground” laws vs. “Duty to Retreat” laws. Make sure that you check and see which side of this your state's stance lies before jumping to any conclusions that you may come to from reading this piece.
SOMEONE CAUGHT STEALING YOUR CAR (CAR THEFT)
All that being said, let's look at something that may be considered the most universally correct, no matter where you live and that is shooting at a person that you find stealing your car. Meaning that you see someone in a parking lot, side street, or your driveway simply breaking into your car. While it is well within your rights to attempt to deter the criminal from doing what they're doing (turning on Flood Lights, making loud and sudden noises, calling the police and hoping they show up quickly) it is generally considered a terrible idea to go into this situation guns metaphorically and literally blazing.
We have seen many stories over the years of individuals catching criminals attempting to take their car and getting into legal trouble for doing so. Even in Stand Your Ground friendly Georgia, attacking someone who is attempting to steal your vehicle while posing no threat to your or anyone's safety could land you in legal trouble. Simply put, if you are not being threatened with violence and you go on to commit violence, you're the aggressor and a pretty easy case can be made against you in front of a jury no matter how in the right you are, common sense wise.
SOMEONE ATTACKING YOU FOR YOUR CAR (CARJACKING)
But what about if someone is threatening you for your vehicle? What if someone had a gun on you and was demanding your car or they were going to kill you? Surely that must be grounds to defend yourself, right? Unfortunately, not everywhere.
As we have mentioned in a previous article, despite popular belief, a car is not an extension of your home. So the same rights that you have to defend yourself within your home do not apply to your car (except, we've found, in Mississippi where statute 97-3-17 of Mississippi Code states, anywhere where a dwelling is listed, a vehicle is also listed. Meaning that any legal justification granted in the home is also granted in the vehicle and outside the home.
But this is certainly the exception to the rule. Nowhere else could we find a true direct statement saying that your home defense rights expand to your vehicle. So the question rises. Can I or Should I shoot at a Carjacker? Well, if you live in a Stand Your Ground state, you are much less likely to face legal troubles for your defense but if you live in one of the 17 states in which you have a duty to retreat, you may come into some trouble with the police, unless of course you are cornered with no means of escape. If that is the case, you are allowed to defend yourself with lethal force in most areas of the country. You should still check the laws in your local area for more personalized information to you.
On the whole, though, the same laws that apply to other public threats to your safety will apply to you in your car. If you are threatened and feel your life in danger, you may defend yourself from carjackings. If you are not being threatened and see a car theft taking place, using a firearm to stop the crime could see yourself committing a more serious one.
So what do you think of this article? Did it provide you with any helpful information? Did it raise more questions for you? Let us know in the comments below so we can start a conversation.