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Is Your Car Really an Extension of Your Home?

I recently had dinner with a friend of mine who works for the USPS. We were chatting a bit and at one point he said he had a story that would interest me. He spoke of a new bunch of Postal Service drivers that were attending an orientation in Denver, where I live. Apparently, there was a large ruckus in the group over a rule that the post office has, stating that guns are not allowed in automobiles on post office property.

The group of people, which held many licensed concealed carriers, exclaimed about how they have the same rights in their car as they do in their home, as the car was an extension of it. The post office plainly replied that this was not the case, and the two parties reached an impasse. The post office would not budge on this, and those that were claiming that their car shared the same freedoms as their home, would not accept that this was the way.

Does the Law Have an Answer?

rights to Gun in car

The question is, who was right in this scenario? There are many people out there in the blogosphere, on YouTube, and even teaching firearms classes who tout that a car is an extension of the home citing specific state laws and statutes.

Now, while it is true that in some states you can carry openly or concealed in your car, as well as your home, there is no law anywhere in the country that specifically states that anything you can do in your home you can also do in your car. Anybody that has said that the same rights apply is not giving you the truth.  While you have certain rights you can have in your home, they do not always apply to your cars. You may defend yourself from intruders invading your home, but without imminent danger, the idea of defending yourself from someone just entering your car is a much stickier situation.

Personal vs. Private Property:

And why is that? Many people view cars, as they do their home, as their property. While this is true, a car is property in the same way that an RC Car is property. Just because you have an item that you can fit inside and inhabit, does not mean that it counts as a homestead. Personal property and private property are two very different things. A recent Supreme Court ruling altered the laws that allow a police officer to search a car after a traffic stop. The Court ruled that a search of the passenger compartment of a car is allowed if either:

  • The driver/arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search, or
  • It is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest (meaning the police cannot search your car for weapons unless they arrested you for a violent crime or illegal weapon possession).

The latter is similar to the rules for a house and search warrants, but the former is something that is not at all similar to a house and proves that the two are very different. The police cannot come into your home if you are within arms reach of a gun cabinet.

Dwelling, Premise, Habitation:

does make my day apply in carThese are three well-known words to those who take a good look at the gun laws in this country, and self-defense laws on top of that. There are pages upon pages of legal documents speaking of just what constitutes a dwelling, premises, or habitation, and depending on the state that you live in, these words could drastically affect your ability to carry. However, they are all synonyms for private property where you reside. Many states have laws we often refer to as “Castle Doctrine” or “Make My Day” Laws that allow you to defend your home but those laws use words like dwelling, occupation, or habitation. Depending on the state and the case law your hotel room, campsite, RV, or friends house may all qualify… but your car won't.

Cars, on the other hand, will not have these words next to them in any legal text because the law sees them as personal property.

Common Sense:

Think about it like this. If you are driving down the road and you pull your car onto someone else’s property and just stay there, would you be charged with trespassing? Of course. You do not take your private property status with you when you leave your home with something that you store there. This is the way that the federal government sees it.

I know that there may be some further questions about this. We encourage that dialogue. USA Firearm Training is dedicated to the training and education of the American Gun Owner. That’s why we prepared an online course called “American Gun Law”. This is a course that offers 8 hours of time with criminal defense attorney Doug Richards. Where he and ConcealedCarry.com President Jacob Paulsen sit down and go over dozens of questions. The idea of the “car being an extension of the home” is one of many myths and confusing points of law that are clarified in American Gun Law. Here is a sample from the course about this topic:

If you found this conversation valuable I have no doubt you would find additional value in our American Gun Law Course. Click the button below to learn more:

Learn More About American Gun Law

If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

Until next time, stay safe out there.

 

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34 Responses to Is Your Car Really an Extension of Your Home?

  1. Steve September 14, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    You might want to read NC’s laws. It doesn’t follow your article.

    • Jacob Paulsen September 14, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      Steve, I’ve reviewed the most recent summary from the NC Attorney General (http://www.ncdoj.com/getdoc/32344299-a2a7-4ae5-99fd-9018262f64ac/2007-NC-Firearms-gun-Laws.aspx), all the info on handgunlaw.us, and I’ve perused the state statutes. I see no NC law that says that the car is an extension of the home or any other law that suggests that anytime you could have a gun in your home you could have it in your car or anything that says anytime you can defend your home you could defend your car under the same circumstances. In fact, from what I’ve reviewed the opposite seems to be true. If you could provide a statute or case law summary to the contrary that would be appreciated!

    • Sam Jones September 15, 2016 at 8:59 am #

      This is indeed a varied situation, depending on State Law. In Texas, the statute is specific: Deadly force is authorized if someone, with force, enters your place of habitation. And, habitation does include your vehicle, or a hotel room, or a motor home or boat, and , of course, your home.
      The Post Office restriction is based upon Federal, not State law, and prohibits carrying on Federal Property. This would include any Federal building, and since the Post Office premise and property are owned by the Federal Government, it would include all Postal property, including the parking lot.
      Because of this, I now buy my stamps at Wal Mart.
      Sam Jones
      Texas LTC Instructor

      • Jacob Paulsen September 15, 2016 at 9:04 am #

        Sam, I’m wondering if you can clarify some. From what I read Texas Penal code wouldn’t include a car in the definition of Habitation. The legal term “habitation” is defined by Texas Penal Code §30.01 as “a structure or vehicle adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons; and includes each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle; and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.” So unless one is sleeping in their car… Let me know what I’m missing!

      • Terressa September 15, 2016 at 5:02 pm #

        Amen Sam Jones!!!

        Jacob Paulsen, talk to the governor, Greg Abbott.

        • Jacob Paulsen December 1, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

          I sent an email to the Governor’s office. They upheld what it says in Texas Penal Code §30.01 which says that a car is NOT a habitation and thus cannot be defended in the same circumstances. Sorry Texans… so far despite the above comments I’ve not seen anyone send me a court decision or statute that would suggest the car is an extension of the home despite what instructors locally may be teaching. Would love to be proven wrong though 🙂

      • Bobby Lee Stepp April 6, 2017 at 11:16 am #

        I live in Texas,and I allways carry concealed! I do everything I can to keep anyone from knowing I have a weapon on me! While I’m out and about and if I decide I need to stop by the post office I can’t leave my weapon at the crub and its just as illegal to have it in the parking lot as in the bldg so I simply conduct my buss and get out of there!! If anything was to happen while I was in there I’d protect myself (as I would in my vehicle) cause if rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6!!

  2. Junius Graham September 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    If you can’t have a gun in a vehicle, how would you transport a gun from the gun store to your home legaly? Some of these laws do not make sense?

    • Jacob Paulsen September 14, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      Junius, most states do allow that you can have a firearm in your vehicle though there may be restrictions about it being open or concealed or “loaded” depending on the state. If you have questions about a specific state feel free to contact us via the contact page and we’ll send you more detailed information.

      This article is meant to point out that laws in homes and cars are different despite a common myth that our community holds that they are the same.

  3. Tony Rickey September 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    If you have a permit to carry do the places that don’t allow guns have to post a sign at the curb letting you know guns are not allowed?
    I see signs on the doors but I’m already in the parking lot.

    Tony Rickey

    • Jacob Paulsen September 14, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Tony, that varies by state and by the type of facility prohibiting guns. For example, federal law prohibits guns in federal buildings and in the building’s parking lot. A post office for example doesn’t have to post a sign… it’s just illegal to have a gun there.

      Private property owners, on the other hand, may or may not be required to post a sign and if so, for that sign to be of a certain design/size/location. That varies by state.

      I think your question is more specifically asking about the difference between signs at the entrance to the building vs the curb of the property…

      Some states have specific laws that prohibit property owners from prohibiting guns in their parking lots and properties outside of the building. Other states have laws that protect the gun owners right to have the firearm in the car regardless of the car being present on a private property that may impose a restriction. In most states, in my experience, this is a gray area of law in which the statutes don’t make clear in any way what the law is and what rights the gun owner has. Best to consult with a local attorney where in doubt.

      Two resources:
      How to find a good gun attorney
      State Specific Gun Laws

    • Terressa September 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

      Tony, yes, they are required to post a notice where you can see it upon arrival. Otherwise you have no knowledge as to whether or not you can carry.
      If you don’t see a posting, lock it in your CAR and hope you are not attacked between the car and the store or the store and the car.
      If there is an open carry, you have to have an open carry and cannot conceal unless you ALSO have a concealed carry “permit” or license.
      If it’s conceal carry permitted, it has to be covered up when you go in and while you are there. That’s basically how it is in Texas.

  4. Eric Racine September 14, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Near my home is a strip mall containing several stores office and a post office. If I enter that strip mall to get a haircut, by some hardware or other non-postal mission, am I violating the “post office” decree?

    • Jacob Paulsen September 14, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

      Eric, this is a question I don’t have a really solid answer for because we don’t have any case law to suggest how this would be interpreted. The law uses the term “federal building” and it isn’t clear if that means the feds own the building or if it means the feds use the building…

    • Pete Kingston September 14, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

      If the Feds occupy a building, leasing or owning, you can’t carry within. PERIOD!

      • Jacob Paulsen September 15, 2016 at 8:50 am #

        Pete, thanks for the comment. Can you send me the law or court precedent you are relying on for that? I’m one of those people that doesn’t believe anything (particularly relating to gun law) until I’ve seen it. Thanks in advance!

  5. Ice Bonner September 14, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    I often go the our local VA hospital and drive over 50 miles to get there. Hospital policy is no weapons allowed. Does this go for legal weapons locked in a vehicle in the parking lot ? I have a CCP.

    • Jacob Paulsen September 15, 2016 at 8:53 am #

      Ice, most likely firearms are not allowed in the parking lot either but to be clear: There is no federal law that outright says anything about the guns in the cars in the parking lots of federal buildings… HOWEVER, earlier this year a Federal District Court upheld a decision to charge a man who was found with a firearm in his vehicle at a post office. The gun was legal and he had a permit. The only charge was having the firearm on the federal property. So that court precedent has some implications I’m afraid.

  6. DanoFive0 September 14, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

    In Browns B.S Calif. It is not! And remember people…..
    If you ever need to use your gun to protect yourself/family.
    When the police come. Just give your name & say. I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer.
    Say no more until you have one with you. NOT ONE WORD..
    If yo use your gun. Never, never talk to the police with out a lawyer .. Be safe not sorry…
    Know your rights & use them..

  7. JOSEPH L SEXTON September 15, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    I am truly ANNOYED by the use of the word PERMIT, my NY Carry License states LICENSE, not permit. Also the use of Assault Weapon annoys me, from anyone in the Second Amendment community, It is defined CLEARLY by the Federal Alcohol & Firearms, “: A Rifle Of Reduced Size, Capable of Selective Fire”. Josh Sugarman a total ANTI-FIREARM NUT attached this to AR’s, so no one can defend their use, even though they are semi-automatic. We are only helping the ANTI-GUNNERS with OUR use of these terms.

    • Jacob Paulsen September 15, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

      Joseph, I’ve never really put any thought into the word Permit before. Does it bother you because it implies permission? Currently our company teaches firearm classes in 17 states. 2 of them refer to it as a license and the other 15 as a permit. I generally use the term permit only because it seems more common. We are on the same page with “assault weapon or assault rifle.”

  8. Bobby Lee Stepp September 22, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    Iv always been told that in Texas if you can prove your going are coming to a sporting place or event that uses that same type of weapon that you can carry it stright to and from that event legally but no stops along the way and must be the most stright and direct route!! I.e. Gun range or shooting event!! I have to believe that would include a gun shop were you have bought a gun or are taking one to be worked on!!

    • Jacob Paulsen September 23, 2016 at 8:54 am #

      Bobby, I believe that is the case. But in the context of this article consider that just because you can transport the firearm in the car doesn’t mean all the rights you have in your home relative to a firearm and deadly force also apply in your car.

  9. Tom Collins September 23, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    I took a firearms course in Denver Co. In preparation for a concealed carry permit, and was told by the instructor that your car is an actention of your home, apparently he was wrong, so I have adjust my feelings on that subject.

    • Jacob Paulsen September 23, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

      Tom, don’t think too poorly of your instructor. This is a super deeply held myth in our community. In my early days as an instructor back in Utah I taught my students the same thing…

  10. Ed Maitner December 22, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

    Let’s move this a little bit farther I have a motor home with a bed and a bathroom is this not an extension of my home.

    • Jacob Paulsen December 22, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

      Ed, your motor home is not an extension of your home. It is either your home or it is your vehicle depending on the local laws. In some states it is your temporary habitation or dwelling and thus can be defended like any other habitation or dwelling under the law. In other states it isn’t a dwelling, temporary or otherwise, and thus can be defended as a vehicle under the law.

  11. Nate March 19, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    Utah has clarified this in law! No establishment can ban you from having a loaded firearm in your vehicle.

    • Jacob Paulsen March 20, 2017 at 8:53 am #

      While that is true, that doesn’t mean that in Utah you can do anything in your car you could do in your home. The car is still not an extension of your home in Utah. The law you reference just prohibits private property owners from banning guns in private vehicles on the the private property unless they provide alternate parking with a shuttle or safe on-site storage for the firearms.

  12. Ken April 6, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    Why should your car be an extension of your house. when it is an extension of you, you are responsible for it and everything in it

  13. Jesus Lazo July 7, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    In my case that I’m a truck driver .My tractor has sleeper so I can say as long as I am in my truck while driving over the road it is my home , right

    • Jacob Paulsen July 7, 2017 at 10:45 am #

      Jesus, this is probably getting into a complicated grey area that will vary by state but if you want my own opinion I would say that when you are driving your truck is a vehicle. When you are sleeping it becomes a temporary habitation that may be defend-able depending on the state.

  14. Claude Duncan July 15, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    Jacob Thanks for all the information on this. I am a Utah Concealed Firearms Instructor and if you have time would you give some light on Transfer of Intent in self defense. If a person is in a justified gun fight to save their life and they have a pass through or missed shot that hits an innocent by stander are they liable for that shot or is it past on to the criminal as in OIS.
    In Utah the law states that your are free from criminal and civil prosecution.
    If possible could you e-mail your response?
    Thanks for all you share with the citizens

    • Jacob Paulsen July 17, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

      Email sent!

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