Of all the cliche things we love to throw out in the concealed carry community, there are very few that I think are as wrong or at very least misleading as the idea that your car is an extension of your home.
What Does It Mean to Say Your Car Is An Extension Of Your Home?
When you sit in a class or talk to your buddies at the range and they say to you, “remember that your car is an extension of your home” in what context does this come up in conversation and what are they implying exactly when they use that phrase?
Generally, I have found that we use this phrase to imply that one can use deadly force in their defense in the same way, and under the same circumstances as they could in their home. A lot of states have Castle Doctrine laws, or other laws that lower the legal requirements or thresholds necessary in order to use deadly force to defend oneself or others when in a dwelling or habitation. To say that the car is an extension of the home implies that that same law or those same legal requirements apply to the car.
This is a dangerous phrase to use because it can give any of the following impressions:
- Under any circumstances that you can use deadly force in your home you could in your car also
- You can store, stage, and have your firearm in your car in any of the same ways, methods, or situations that you can in your home
For the greater part, these two things are almost never both true and that is why I think as a community we need to stop using the phrase. It implies things, sometimes unintended things, that may or may not be true… and in my experience, they are almost never true.
So Is It, In Fact, Truthful / Lawful??
This is a question of state law. This country doesn't have federal laws that dictate the use of force even though all 50 states have laws primarily based on the old common laws and thus there are some universal themes. Thinking specifically about this question of the car being an extension of the home we need to look more closely, however.
Ultimately the question is this… in your state's laws that determine when the use of deadly force is lawful; does it specify anything about a vehicle? If yes, what does it say? If no, and the word habitation or dwelling is used are there any court precedents or statutes that include vehicles in the definition of a habitation or dwelling?
Let me give you some examples as it relates to the use of deadly force:
O.C.G.A. 16-3-23.1: A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, relating to the use of force in defense of self or others, Code Section 16-3-23, relating to the use of force in defense of a habitation, or Code Section 16-3-24, relating to the use of force in defense of property other than a habitation, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force as provided in said Code sections, including deadly force.
O.C.G.A. 16-3-24.1 As used in Code Sections 16-3-23 and 16-3-24, the term “habitation” means any dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, and “personal property” means personal property other than a motor vehicle.
Georgia Summary: In Georgia one's vehicle qualifies as a habitation and so for the purposes of using or threatening to use force the same criteria apply and thus one might say in Georgia that your vehicle is an extension of your home and correctly communicate that you can defend your vehicle under the same circumstances and in the same way as your home.
Penal Code 30.01: Habitation means a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons…
Texas Summary: In Texas, a standard vehicle (that doesn't have a bedroom in it) is not a habitation and therefore not included in the law that determines when and how one can defend their home (habitation). Please note this does NOT mean you can't defend yourself or your car with deadly force in some circumstances. It simply means that the laws that determine when and how you can defend your home are NOT the same as the laws that determine that for your vehicle.
MS 97-3-15.1: The killing of a human being by the act, procurement or omission of another shall be justifiable in the following cases: (e) When committed by any person in resisting any attempt unlawfully to kill such person or to commit any felony upon him, or upon or in any dwelling, in any occupied vehicle, in any place of business, in any place of employment or in the immediate premises thereof in which such person shall be;
MS 97-3-15.3: A person who uses defensive force shall be presumed to have reasonably feared imminent death or great bodily harm, or the commission of a felony upon him or another or upon his dwelling, or against a vehicle which he was occupying, or against his business or place of employment or the immediate premises of such business or place of employment, if the person against whom the defensive force was used, was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, occupied vehicle, business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof or if that person had unlawfully removed or was attempting to unlawfully remove another against the other person’s will from that dwelling, occupied vehicle, business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof and the person who used defensive force knew or had reason to believe that the forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
Mississippi Summary: In Mississippi, the car is an extension of the home if you want to call it that but not in the same way that it is in Georgia. While Georgia states you can defend your habitation and that a habitation includes a motor vehicle; Mississippi just lists an occupied vehicle along with a dwelling and two places in which you have a right to use deadly force in your own defense.
I offer the above 3 examples to paint the picture that what the law says matters and making assumptions that your car is an extension of your home is a dangerous assumption to make… even if your instructor told you so… because I've seen instructors in North Carolina, Florida, and Texas all tell their students that is the case when in reality I don't believe it to be true in any of those three states.
What About The Way You Carry or Stage The Firearm?
As mentioned above, in addition to the implication that you can use deadly force in the same circumstances, when you say the vehicle is an extension of the home you are also implying that one can carry and store/stage the firearm in the vehicle in the same ways as the home. When you do your research into your own state's laws you have to consider this too.
It certainly isn't always the case in any state simply because you can take your vehicle places where firearms are prohibited. You can't pick up your house and dump it onto a military base but you can drive your car onto a military base and when you do you cannot have your firearm with you. Thus the laws that determine how and where you can have your firearm in your home cannot ever truly universally be the same in one's vehicle because the vehicle moves and can go places where your rights are otherwise restricted.
Which States Have “Car Extension” Laws?
I have not done the exhaustive research into this topic for each of the 50 states and I'm not aware of any other organization who has. So I will leave you with this thought…. my own sense from the research I have done is that a SMALL number of states have laws that would infer that in that state the vehicle is an extension of the home. More often than not I have been able to DISPROVE this assumption in a lot of states and have only been able to prove it TRUE in less than 5 states.
So, assume until a competent attorney tells you otherwise that the laws that determine when you can defend your vehicle are NOT equal to the laws that determine when you can defend your home in your state.
Here is what I know to be true:
- Laws vary from state to state and to suggest that something as simple as “your car is an extension of your home” is true everywhere, is absurd
- For ANY given state, in order for the statement and it's potential implications to be perfectly true and accurate your state's laws would have to be such that ANYTHING you could do in your home with a firearm you could do in your car.
- As it relates to the use of Deadly Force there certainly are a small number of states where there is no effective difference in being in your vehicle or being in your home. But based on the research I've done those states are relatively few and a large number of people who think their state is one of them have been proven wrong.
- As it relates to the carrying and storage of the firearm there are an equally low number of states that have identical laws for homes and vehicles but even for those states that do, there are going to be exceptions to your rights in the car based on where it is driven. Those exceptions don't apply to the home.
Some my conclusion would be that using the phrase “the car is an extension of the home” is generally unwise as it isn't ever perfectly accurate and even worse has the tendency to imply things that are false.
I welcome comments below and will try to answer them all but a few quick notes that will hopefully answer the most common questions:
*I'm not saying that in most states you don't have the right to defend yourself when in a vehicle. In fact, in most states, you do have that right. I am saying that the required elements for justifiable deadly force in a car are generally different than they are in a home.
*I'm not saying that in most states you can't have a firearm in the car or transport it in the car. In fact, in almost all states there are perfectly legal ways to transport a firearm in a vehicle with or without a permit. Check our legal summaries for state-specific details and consider reading our article about 926A of FOPA.
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Until next time, stay safe out there.