People all over the U.S. have been digging into the self-defense laws in their own states following the trial and verdict in the George Zimmerman case. The thing most people are curious about is what it actually means to “stand your ground,” and when it’s legal to defense themselves. We want to talk about defending your own personal property, and what you can or cannot do if you were to stumble upon someone robbing your home or garage of property.
Above all else, always use common sense and consider your own and your family’s safety before doing anything rash – particularly if the offender is armed with a knife, gun, or anything that may be used as a weapon. When your safety or life is threatened, comply with the offender’s demands and immediately call the police.
Now onto the laws in California regarding protecting your personal property. As highly experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, we want potential victims of property theft to know what your rights are.
When it comes to property outside your home (bicycles, car stereos, etc.) you have the right to use reasonable force when pursuing someone who has stolen your property. Reasonable force is defined as “the amount of force a reasonable individual in the same situation would determine is necessary to protect property.” However, nothing is set in concrete – it’s really up to the attorneys to argue, and jury to decide whether you used “reasonable force” in protecting your property. While you can physically attack (such as punching) the perpetrator up to the point of recovering your property, you cannot continue to beat him or her after recovery.
Now, regarding property INSIDE your home. What would happen if you were to return from an errand and stumble upon a burglary in progress, someone taking your sound system, jewelry, gun collection, or other valuables? According to California Penal Code Section 198.5, it is presumed that when you come upon a stranger in your home who is in the act of stealing your property, you are in “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household.” This essentially means that should you attack the perpetrator using such force that it could potentially kill that person in the course of defending yourself, your family, and the property inside your home, you will have a solid defense.
Considering the legal jargon, it’s often difficult for the average person to understand what the laws in California regarding personal property really mean. If you are interested in learning more about your rights, contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer who will be glad to answer your questions.