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Is Your Car Really an Extension of Your Home?

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:

From Georgia:

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.

AND

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.

From Texas:

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.

From Mississippi:

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;

AND

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.

My Conclusion:

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.

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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39 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!

  15. John R September 17, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

    O.C.G.A. § 16-3-24.1 (2008): “Habitation” and “personal property” defined.
    O.C.G.A § 16-3-23 (2008): Use of force in defense of habitation.
    O.C.G.A. § 16-3-23.1 (2008): Use of force in defense of habitation, property, self, or others; no duty to retreat.
    In the state of Georgia, a motor vehicle is an extension of your home when concerning the use of weapons and the use of deadly force.

  16. James Calico October 15, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    Oklahoma law doesn’t make your vehicle an extension of your home or “Castle Domain” however you can shoot to kill to defend yourself fearing for your life / fear of being abducted !Also under Oklahoma’s law a gun licensee may have a loaded long gun in their vehicle ! Both of these regulations require an occupant of a vehicle to have a valid Oklahoma Gun license !
    Definitely get your gun laws information from you’re State Gun licencing agency or a Firearms Instructor that is State certified CCW instructor in you’re State ! I would rather be safe than sorry , as no one is an authority of what the guns laws in every State are ! The gun laws are constantly changing at least they are in Oklahoma ! New laws changes coming up in November !
    I really appreciate the write up on this subject folks need to know the laws in their States well if they have a gun license ! Be safe !

  17. Bob Bearden December 12, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

    I can assure you that Mississippi ‘s CASTLE law says that your vehicle IS a extension of your home !!

    • Jacob Paulsen December 13, 2017 at 8:51 am #

      Bob, you are the first person in this thread to prove me wrong. I just read through 97-3-17 of Mississippi Code and 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. I would best summarize it by saying there are no Mississippi laws that really significantly separate when you can use justifiable force in any given place vs any other given place. Thanks Bob!

  18. Mayo March 19, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

    Pretty sure you can mail guns with USPS so they would need to be on the property to do so

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