Shoot? Don't Shoot? Part I

February 23, 2005 -- Posted 10:30 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- The statistics are shocking. Every 3 seconds in the United States, there's some type of property crime, every 13 seconds a burglary. In some of those instances, home owners take matters into their own hands, and end up shooting and killing. But what are your legal rights?

Consider this scenario:

It's a typical afternoon in the middle of the work week. You have some extra time to kill, and decide to head home for lunch. Meanwhile, inside your bedroom, a hooded bandit is rummaging through your expensive jewelry. They spot grandma's watch and pocket it. While this is going on, back outside, you notice something really strange when you turn in the driveway. Your front door is slightly open. You know you locked it that morning. Suspicious minds waste little time figuring it out, and in no time at all, you reach in your glove compartment, grab your gun, and without considering your safety, aim it at the door. That's when the not so bright robber tries to make a quick dash right in your direction.

Shoot? Don't Shoot?

"The first thing that we're going to advise them to do is to stay away from the house, keep a safe distance and call the police," said Sargeant Steve McDaniel with the Jonesboro Police Department.

Prosecutor Brent Davis said chances are under that scenario it would be must more difficult to justify shooting someone because they are leaving your home.

"You may have witnessed a crime take place but you are not authorized to use deadly physical force to stop them," said Davis.

Now consider this:

You're hanging out in your living room, just watching some T.V., when you hear a noise coming from yourback patio. Thatnoise is not a figment of your imagination. While you sit all alone on your couch, anintruder, armedwith a knife,is picking at your back lock. Back inside, you catch on to what might be going on, and instead of calling the police, you choose to take matters in your own hands, and reach in the end table for your gun.

Shoot? Don't Shoot?

"You're always safer if you try to distance yourself," said McDaniel.

"If they believe the person is about to use force or violence in commiting a felony, you can use deadly physical force. You are required to retreat, if you can do so with complete safety," said Davis.