Georgia: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Welcome members and fellow gun owners. In the last Members Voice video our member Tyler witnessed a criminal breaking into his car. Tyler drew his gun and the bad guys ran away.

The legal questions started pouring in, and members, you wanted to know your legal rights in your state. So here’s your U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney to give you insight on what the law says.

U.S. Law Shield of Georgia Independent Program Attorney Matt Kilgo:

Can you use force to defend your motor vehicle? Well the law can be very complex and confusing here in Georgia. Let’s begin with a few definitions. First let’s talk about a habitation.

In Georgia there are three places that are habitations: Where you live, where you work, and how you get to where you live and work. Georgia law defines your home, your place of business, and your motor vehicle as habitations.

Georgia law also allows you to use the threat of force, force, and deadly force to protect your habitation. Threats of force: Get out of my home! The use of force: Anything short of deadly force. And in fact deadly force: That force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm. You can use deadly force to protect your habitation if you have a reasonable belief that another person has entered your habitation for the purpose of committing a felony.

So let’s talk about someone burglarizing your car in your driveway. What can you do? What kind of force can you use to stop them? Certainly you can use the threats of force and force. Can you use deadly force? Well remember, your car is a habitation. Georgia law allows you to use deadly force to protect your habitation from someone committing a felony inside it. Based on Georgia law, there’s a very strong argument that you can use deadly force to keep someone from burglarizing your vehicle.

Now we’re talking about you being outside the vehicle and someone getting into the vehicle. Certainly if you’re in the vehicle and this bad guy’s trying to get in with you, yes, you’re justified, because you’re protecting yourself and your family. You’re protecting whoever’s in the car. But if we’re outside the vehicle, bad guy’s outside the vehicle, can you use deadly force to keep him from committing a felony in the vehicle i.e. burglary? You know burglary in Georgia, the second degree burglary, can be entering a vehicle to commit a felony. Well according to the law, since your car is your habitation, you can use deadly force to protect your habitation to prevent the commission of a felony inside your habitation.

So from a legal perspective, it’s entirely possible that you could be justified in using deadly force against someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle.

From a public-policy perspective, and from perhaps the district attorney’s perspective, you may very well be charged with a crime if you injure that person, because just because you have that right, doesn’t necessarily mean that the district attorney agrees with you.

And in fact if you ask two lawyers the same question: “Can I use deadly force to protect my car from a burglary?” You’re going to get two different answers. One lawyer is going to say “Well sure, car’s your habitation you can use deadly force to protect your habitation.” The second lawyer is going to go “No no no no. Your car’s your property.”

Well I think the law is pretty clear that your car is a habitation, but I don’t think it’s going to keep you from being charged if you hurt someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle.

Let’s look at it from a practical standpoint though.

Let’s say you’re in your home. You look out the window. You see someone burglarizing your vehicle. Are you going to leave your position of safety? Are you going to give up your position of advantage to go outside and confront this person? Or are you going to call the police and let the police do their job?

I think prudence and common sense would say, yes, we let the police do the job. That’s what we pay them for. That’s why they’re here, to protect us. I do think if you decide to take that step and go outside, you’re giving up your position of advantage, or giving up your position of safety, and you’re putting yourself in an unreasonable situation without justification, but if you do that and you do fire on someone, the law could in fact protect you. But it may not keep you from being arrested.

Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

Educating you is the cornerstone of U.S. Law Shield. Thank you for being a part of our family.

 

9 comments on “Georgia: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

  • William Schaub says:

    What if I am not at home and I see someone trying to break into my vehicle? For example if I am at my place of business or at the mall or store. I have a weapons carry permit so if I have to use the threat of force or deadly force am I protected by law?

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi William. Thanks for your question. Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Georgia.

      “This is one of the hardest questions to answer because there is no clear rule. Your car is your “habitation”, and you may be justified in the use of deadly force if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent a felony therein, like entering an auto or theft. But would your acts be justified? That depends on what you say; what you do; who calls the police; what you say to them; what the prosecutor believes; what the judge and your lawyer believe; and, ultimately, what the jury may believe. It’s not a cut-and-dry proposition. There are many who believe shooting another person just to protect your property isn’t right, regardless of what the law may say. For that reason alone, using deadly force against a perpetrator whose only crime (though let’s face it, it IS a crime) is breaking into your car can be very dangerous for you, legally speaking, especially when the “many who believe” may be law enforcement, prosecutors, and jurors.”

  • steve maney says:

    From the article “Georgia: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?”; in reference to the extracted statement
    “I do think if you decide to take that step and go outside, you’re giving up your position of advantage, or giving up your position of safety,
    and you’re putting yourself in an unreasonable situation without justification”. If personally confronted with this situation,
    I intend to make a police report and later contact my insurance as needed; NOT play “Dirty Harry”.
    However, in a perfect world – “Justification” – should mean defending oneself and ones property and family,
    without being chastised for doing so. We all know we don’t live in that perfect world however.
    Even though our laws were not intended to aid the criminal, it seems a shame that
    in effect they hamstring the innocent to a large degree and therefore opens up a large area of possibilities for the criminal.
    While giving the police all the respect they deserve, they are more reactive to crime than proactive.
    They do not have crystal balls and cannot know where to be to stop a crime from being carried out.
    They will show up ;investigate, fill out reports, and put the information into the system.
    Meanwhile, “I” can pay my deductible,
    call my paid up insurer, and start all over again.
    But hey, the criminal is just trying to make a living too, right? 🙂

  • Please address issue of recording crimes. Todays day and age includes the ability to record events quickly and clearly. Would a DA think you unreasonably gave up your safety under those conditions? Would deadly force be authorized if a perp. moved towards you while recording? Or if the perp. pulled a weapon? Thanks, Brian Trerice

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi Brian. Thanks for your question. Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Georgia.

      “I’m not sure what you mean by “unreasonably gave up your safety”: do you mean those who record in public don’t have the right to protect themselves? The law allows anyone to protect himself or herself by the use of deadly force if he or she has a reasonable belief it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. If a “perp” merely moves toward you, that may not be enough to reasonably believe force is necessary. Are there other menacing facts? The devil is in the details, as they say: the “perp” may feel threatened by YOUR actions and may be responding to a perceived threat from someone placing him under surveillance (lawful or otherwise). If he pulls a gun there is certainly a better argument your belief he will harm you is justified, but he may also be responding to the threat he perceives from you. A difficult situation to address, no question.”

    • Texas and U.S. Law Shield Admin says:

      Here’s the link to the Texas version of this video on our YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/qziRUDan0rQ

      If you can’t click the link to jump to YouTube, then paste it into your browser. There’s lots of other Texas-specific content there.

  • Chris Evans says:

    Here is a question I would love to get a legal answer to. What if someone is trying to break into your car at night and you have a gun between the seats of the car and you have a fear that the person may actually get the gun and commit harm to you or your family members? But maybe that person is only trying to break into the car and you catch him in the process and he will not cease his actions? What if he does get the door open and tries to reach into the car?

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi Chris. Thanks for your question. Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Georgia.

      “The answer depends on your belief: in order to be justified in the use of deadly force, you must a belief that is reasonable that you must act to prevent death or great bodily harm, or to prevent a forcible felony. If you aren’t in the car, the question becomes whether your belief the perpetrator would 1) find the weapon and 2) use it on your family (in your house?) is reasonable.

      Keep in mind your car is considered your “habitation”, and you may be justified in the use of deadly force if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent a felony therein, like entering an auto or theft. The law seems clear cut, but shooting someone for merely entering your car leaves a bad taste, so don’t be surprised if such an action results in arrest and prosecution. Should you attempt to prevent the bad guy’s theft of your belonging and then perceive he threatens you with death or great bodily harm, yet another avenue (the most basic, defense of self) may arise to allow you the justification of deadly force. As you can see, there’s no clear, one-hundred-percent answer!”

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