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

Law Shield 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 Florida Independent Program Attorney James Phillips:

You’re sitting in your house watching your favorite TV show, and you hear glass breaking in your driveway. You look out the window. You see someone still in your brand-new car. What do you do? What can you do?

We are frequently asked this question by U.S. Law Shield Members. Several areas of the law are involved in this answer.

Under Florida Statute 776.013, which is commonly known as the Florida Castle Doctrine, you might believe that you have the right to use deadly force to keep someone from stealing your car.

776.013 does allow the use of deadly force against another, when the person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed, or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.

The key here, is that the law allows the use of deadly force if the vehicle is occupied. Which is not our example. Further, Florida law allows the use of deadly force to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, and it lists burglary as a forcible felony.

However it is unlikely that deadly force will be found to be reasonable and necessary to protect only an unoccupied vehicle. When your car is parked outside of your home and no one is in it, it is just another piece of property and the use of force law covering the protection of property apply.

These laws can be found in Florida Statute Section 776.031, which in relevant part reads “A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on or criminal interference with, either real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threaten to use such force.” Note that the law only allows the use of force, and not the use of deadly force. Deadly force can not be used to protect solely property in Florida with very limited exceptions.

Should you choose to use deadly force to protect your car sitting in the driveway, your attorney and the prosecutor will argue about how the law should be interpreted. And a jury will likely decide your fate. Therefore if you’re in your home, and you notice someone’s stealing your car, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1 and be the very best witness you can be.

Law Shield Member Ambassador Sherry Hale:

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

 

25 comments on “Florida: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

  • Marvin Biediger says:

    A friend had a burglar in a storage shed. He called the Cops. “We’ll be out later this afternoon”. He hung up, then called again. He told the dispatcher that he had a burglar and that he would shoot the guy in 3 minutes, then hung up. Half the Police force showed up immediately and arrested the burglar. Fast Police action is better than killing someone.
    Call 911, then throw the phone on the floor. Our Police buddies get there real quick. This is better than watching your stuff get riped off.

  • Mario Pargas says:

    I can choke out, full nelson, knock out a thief. But a car is not worth using deadly force, unless the thief has a weapon and if in the process of my objecting to my property becoming community property threatens to use it against me in some way. I have seen security video of car thieves yielding hand guns.

  • Danny L Hardy says:

    Good message: Can we take this one or two steps further. I know hypothetical circumstances are tough, and perhaps a jury would have to decide in the case, but: A thief is trying to steal my car from my driveway and I threaten or use force (non deadly) and the criminal subsequently escalates the altercation to the point where I must use deadly force or potentially suffer great bodily harm or even death. Is my deadly force justified or am I at legal risk? Thanks for your feedback.

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

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

      “If the thief escalates the violence, you should be fine, however, there are always two sides to the story and you may find yourself facing a jury. Further, although exhibiting a firearm is considered the use of force, it can also be argued that exhibiting a firearm is the threat of deadly force. In Florida, you can only threaten deadly force if you have a right to use deadly force. The criminal could argue that by exhibiting your firearm, you threatened deadly force in a situation where you did not have the right to use deadly force and when they shot you, they were defending themselves from your escalation of violence. A jury might be deciding your future. The better course of action is to call 911 and live to be the best witness you can be.”

  • Jerrica Hunt says:

    The very last sentence states, “Therefore if you’re in your home, and you notice someone’s still in your car, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1…” . The words “still in” are a tad confusing. Is the sentence supposed to read, ” stealing your car”?

  • Dale Downing says:

    While on your property and someone is breaking into the unoccupied vehicle on your property; after calling 911, can you show your firearm with it being holstered and on your property to deter the completion of the burglary. I was told in the state of Florida that you can show your firearm to de-escalate a situation.

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

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

      “If someone is attempting to steal your car, you can use force to stop them. However, you cannot use deadly force in Florida to protect only property. Further, if you threaten someone with deadly force, and they are armed, they may pull their weapon to defend themselves and shoot you. Technically, the exhibition of a Firearm in Florida is considered the use of force and the discharge is considered the use of deadly force, so exhibiting your firearm without discharging it may technically be allowed. The better course of action is to call 911 and live to be the best witness you can be.”

  • Ted Plusch says:

    How about shoot ingénieur him in the leg to stop him?

    If he rues away can I trip him with a stick or à base-ball bat then hold him for the PD?

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

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

      “If a person is attempting to escape after committing a crime, regardless of the crime, you cannot shoot them. You cannot shoot to kill, you cannot shoot to injure. When you discharge your firearm, under Florida law, you have used deadly force. Telling the police that you were not trying to kill the person, only injure them will not help you. If a person is escaping with your property you can try to prevent them from getting away with your property by tripping them if you like.”

  • Fabio Valdes says:

    Mr. Phillips:

    Thank you for your explanation and I will make sure I remember your advice and call 911 if I’m ever involved in such a scenario.

    Nevertheless, when I hear these explanations, I am appalled that the law protects criminals before protecting law-abiding citizens. If I understood you correctly, I have to powerlessly watch a thief drive away with my property because I know darn well the police will not arrive on time.

  • Eddie Murray says:

    Good, sound advice – I have a wrinkle on this scenario. I am a licensed Curio and Relic collector, I also collect title 2 items -machineguns, suppressors, etc. I currently live in a motorhome and keep weapons on board- for protection, and for possible trade value in a swap. When I was a USAF Security POliceman – I was always armed in training exercises to “protect the weapons” as well as my trainees. DOes the presence of weapons onboard my RV – or a regular passenger car change the deadly force standard??? The thought of someone making off with multiple weapons and lots of ammo – keeps me vigilant, and I keep things locked up, but this video training of yours raised the question in my mind.q

  • bill alba says:

    it was nor mentioned if the thief or thieves are holding or menacing the owner with some kind of weapon, that can be construed to be damaging to ones body.
    If the thief or thieves exit the vehicle brandishing a none firearm type weapon wouldn’t it then be reasonable to use deadly force or would be best not take a chance with a jury and just retreat into the house away from a possible harmful confrontation until police arrive?

  • Gerald Dickens says:

    Thank you !! You have cleared up a question I’ve had.
    Always willing to be educated.
    Thanks again
    Jerry D

  • Richard Riker says:

    Again the law protects the criminal and the private citizen who is not committing a crime is prevented, by the law, from protecting his property. The private citizen should be allowed to as much force as needed to protect his property short of actually killing the thief,

  • Orlando Gonzalez says:

    Florida Statute Section 776.031 states “is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force” when “that person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on or criminal interference with, either real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession.” Does this mean that a person may wound the the individual attempting to steal the personal property? If the suspect then attempts to attack, charge, etc. the property owner, does the property now have the right to use deadly force?

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi Orlando. Thanks for your question! Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Florida.

      “A person is allowed to use non-deadly force to prevent someone stealing his personal property or to expel a trespasser. If that person attacks the property owner, the property owner can only use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself (example, if attacker pulls out a knife and charges the property owner).”

  • Fred Kuehl says:

    What would the consequences be if you were to shoot out a tire, making it difficult to drive the vehicle?

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi Fred. Thanks for your question! Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Florida.

      “Any time a firearm is discharged in the state of Florida, the law considers that the use of deadly force. If someone is driving away from you after an accident or after stealing your car, you do not have a right to use deadly force, therefore shooting out a tire would not be allowed. To be clear, it does not matter if you were trying to shoot the person or the tire, or if you fire a warning shot away from the person. If you discharge your firearm, under Florida law, you have used deadly force.”

  • Oscar QUINTANA says:

    Can I have a loaded firearm in my car while I drive in the glove compartment. I am waiting for my CONCEAL CARRY PERMIT.If I am stopped for a traffic violation do I tell tell the officer that I have a loaded firearm in the glove compartment.

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi Oscar. Thanks for your question! Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Florida.

      “Under Florida Law, anyone who is not otherwise disqualified from possessing a firearm can have a loaded firearm in their vehicle. The firearm must be securely encased unless you have a CWFL. Florida Law does not require you to inform a law enforcement officer that you have a firearm in the vehicle if you are stopped unless the officer asks. It may still be a good idea to inform the officer of the presence of a weapon while keeping your hands on the steering wheel and asking how the officer wants to proceed. If you have a firearm in your glove compartment and that is also where your vehicle information is located, it would be a very bad idea to open the glove box and reach into it to get your paperwork without informing the officer that there was also a firearm in the glove box and asking them how they would like your paperwork retrieved.”

  • Steven Quintana says:

    What about a motorcycle at a gas station, or store or driveway. Being there is only one occupant.?

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

      Hi Steven. Thanks for your question! Please see the below response from one of our Independent Program Attorneys in Florida.

      “If a person is sitting on a motorcycle and someone is attempting to remove them from it and steal it (carjacking), deadly force is allowed under Florida law. If a motorcycle is parked and from the store you see someone attempting to steal it, you cannot use deadly force to keep them from stealing an unoccupied motorcycle.”

  • Jonathan Albert says:

    Can you use less than deadly force like say paintball gun or other non leathel means of defense for me and my property

    2nd part of my question is whether or not deadly force is justified if you just loaded weapons and ammo into your car and go back in the house to get one more thing use the bathroom ect ect and after a few minutes you come back out side to find the neighborhood trouble maker trying to get in to your car to get the guns and ammo maybe to use on you maybe someone else

    • U.S. & Texas LawShield Admin says:

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

      “You can not use deadly force to protect solely property in Florida. You must use less than deadly force. You can only use deadly force to protect people. In order to be justified in using deadly force, you must reasonably believe that using or threatening to use deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. You cannot use deadly force to protect property, even a gun from being stolen.”

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