There is an interesting case out of San Antonio where a car owner shot and killed one alleged car thief and wounded another outside of a home of a friend. What is interesting is that response of the police that, since he was defending property, he was in the right.
The 25-year-old man heard the men breaking into his Toyota 4Runner around 1:30 a.m. and went outside with a gun. He told police that he thought they had a gun and fired after confronting them.
One of the men drove off after being shot but crashed a block away.
Notably, the account below reports “[o]fficers said the shooter is not expected to face any charges since he was protecting his property.”
This is an interesting –though not unexpected — position. The common law does not allow the use of force calculated to cause serious bodily injury or death in protection of property. In famous cases like Bird v. Holbrook, 4 Bing. 628, 130 Eng. Rep. 911 (1825), courts have ruled that “[n]o man can do indirectly that which he is forbidden to do directly.” Not only are such devices viewed as immoral (because human life is more valuable than property), but dangerous because such devices cannot tell the difference between friend and foe. The case however also has been cited for the long-standing rule that no property is viewed as more valuable than a human life. That does not mean you cannot take steps to protect your property and a case of protection of property can become protection of self (with the right to use higher levels of force) when the suspect resists or attacks.
Of course, Texas has a “Castle Doctrine” law (sometimes called a “Make My Day” law) that allows homeowners to use lethal force to property their homes. Some states also have “Make My Day Better” laws extending that privilege to cars or businesses. This does not appear to be defense of the home though I have seen a case where a court ruled that a shooting at the end of a long country driveway was part of the curtilage of the home.
A recent study showed an increase in shootings with the Castle Doctrine laws.