Someone breaking into a house may feel pretty tough – until they have a shotgun pulled on them as soon as they open the door. Something that is perfectly legal here in Florida.
A Miami Gardens mother made headlines late last month after she was caught on a surveillance camera giving a burglar the scare of a lifetime. Here’s what happened:
An alleged thief approached the door in what appears to be broad daylight. When he was finally able to break it down, he immediately started to run in the other direction. Why?
Because behind the door were the mother, her shotgun, and the two children she was protecting from the alleged burglar. The woman’s children are 3 and 10, and are the sole reason the woman said she didn’t just pull the trigger on the man.
Police released the surveillance video in order to capture the burglary suspect, not to highlight the mother’s reaction. After all, as mentioned above, her response was within the bounds of Florida law. In fact, even if she had shot and killed the man, she might not have faced any consequences under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Burglary Offenses and Stand Your Ground
Before we get into Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, let’s look at burglary. Florida law defines burglary as “entering or remaining in a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein.” The offense could range from theft to murder, but as long as the intent is present, the alleged burglar could be found guilty of burglary charges.
(To learn more about burglary, and how it differs from similar theft crimes like robbery, click here.)
Back to the Miami Gardens incident. The mother clearly knew that someone was attempting to break into her home before she pulled the shotgun. At what point is this legal under Stand Your Ground?
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law says that someone can threaten or intend to use defensive force that can likely cause great bodily harm (or death) if:
- 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 the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
- The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
The simple answer is that the Florida mom is legally allowed pull her shotgun as soon as she hears the attempt to break in. If she had shot and killed the alleged burglar, not only would Stand Your Ground protect her, she wouldn’t be the first person to use the law after killing an alleged burglar in Florida. This gives alleged victims a lot of power, even if no actual wrongdoing occurs.
Accused of Burglary?
The case above is pretty cut and dry in some ways – after all, the man broke down the mother’s door – but others are up in the air. Technically, he didn’t actually enter the dwelling. We also do not know what his intent was because he never got to follow through. It is possible that he was merely engaged in an act of vandalism.
Despite this, it is likely that the man will face burglary charges if he is apprehended and arrested. Should he, though? Burglary is a felony of the first or second degree, depending on whether or not the defendant possessed a dangerous weapon or committed assault on the victims. Pretty serious consequences for breaking someone’s door.
This is all to point out that there are all kinds of ways to defend against a burglary charge. That’s why, if you have been charged with burglary, it is important to get in contact with a defense lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.