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What are your rights when you're faced with an intruder on your property who could potentially do you and your family harm?
Can you use lethal force to protect your property, and if so, when? What are your rights when you're faced with an intruder on your property who could potentially do you and your family harm? The basic rule on the right to use force to defend yourself or your property is that the use of force must be proportional to the harm: your defensive act may not be more harmful than necessary to ward off the attack from the intruder.
This can get complicated in situations where there's an intruder in your home, and you want to protect yourself and your family before the intruder gets a chance to do anything to them. Here's a situation that Anton Du Plessis, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, explains. "You wake up one night and discover that an intruder has broken into your living room. The thief is armed with a firearm and is sneaking through the house, gathering valuable items as he proceeds. You know that if he is startled he might shoot you or your family. Can you lawfully shoot him? Do you have to take your family and flee from your home? Do you have to wait for him to attack you or your family?
[The] same legal principles apply. You cannot use lethal force to prevent him from walking out with your TV. Instead, you or your family would have to be in immediate danger. It could be argued that the mere fact that the intruder is in your home is sufficient threat to justify your using lethal force again him ... the legally safe option would be to avoid using lethal force until you have no other option.
The principle is simple: the life of the attacker can only be taken in order to protect yours or someone else’s life or to prevent serious bodily harm. It is unlawful to use lethal force in any other circumstances..."
Sources: Institute for Security Studies, www.issafrica.org
Date added: September 2019
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