February 24, 2005 -- Posted 9:00 p.m. CDT
Jonesboro, AR -- Every 13 seconds in the U.S., someone's home is burglarized. In some cases, homeowners take matters into their own hands, even killing the suspect. But what are your legal rights?
Consider this scenario:
It's a typical evening, you're all alone, just finished dinner, and decide to check out a new magazine. Meanwhile, outside your front door a medium built man, wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt successfully picks away at your lock. Back inside you're quickly taken by surprise after hearing glass shatter. At first you reach for a cell phone to call police, but fearing precious time, you change your mind and head for the gun hiding above your hutch. Now it's only a matter of seconds before you catch a burglar in the act.
Shoot? Don't shoot?
"If someone were confronted in their house by someone who was armed, the first thing we want people to do is to try to separate themselves from the threat or try to get away from the threat," said Sergeant Steve McDaniel with the Jonesboro Police Department.
"If you reasonably believe that the person coming in your home is coming in is about to either commit a felony using force or violence, an arson, or a burglary, then you have a right to protect your own home with deadly physical force," said Prosecutor Brent Davis.
Now consider this:
You're sitting in your bedroom planning a night out with the guys, when all of a sudden you hear the sound of breaking dishes. Startled, you tell your friend you'll call him back, and you make a straight dash for the gun in the bedroom. But is it too late? The intruder rummaging in the house hears you on the phone and makes a mad dash for the front door. By the time you spot him, he's running across your lawn, and thankful to have gotten away.
Shoot? Don't shoot?
"Someone will know that someone has left their house, but we tell people don't make any assumptions about if there is someone still in the house or not. We'll be more than happy to come out and clear the house and make sure that there's no one there," said McDaniel.
"That would not be a protective situation," said Davis. "That would be more of an apprehension or putting a stop to the criminal, and you are not authorized to use deadly physical force under those circumstances."