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Responding to a Vehicle Break-In…

Question:  Someone recently broke into my vehicle and stole my emergency tool kit, a few dollars in change, some audio CDs, and a few other misc. items of little value. What they really took is my confidence in parking my vehicle in my apartment complex.  I am a highly trained military professional with no urge to use my weapons any more than I need to, but I’m very bothered by this occurrence.  I’ve decided to stake out my vehicle tonight (The night after the theft) and kill the person if they attempt to break into my vehicle again.  What issues do I face legally if I do this and I am successful?  I understand that this may not be the smartest course of action but I cannot post guard over my vehicle every night and I can’t bear the idea of someone breaking into it again, whether it be tomorrow, next week or next month.

PS: Does Arizona have an extension of domicile law similar to Louisiana? I’ve heard conflicting views on this matter.”

Answer: First, let me state right up front I know exactly how you feel.  I was in Salt Lake City to teach an NRA Instructor course recently and had my truck broken into my first night at the hotel.  They stole approximately $2000 worth of equipment and materials including my personal range bag (no firearms fortunately), a very nice EMT kit in a Pelican Case, an LCD projector, speakers, my instructor manuals and most of the materials for the class I was to teach.  Of course, my insurance did not cover it since I have my deductible set high.  In addition, there was the cost to repair the window ($500).

I had some of the same feelings as you.  I felt violated and angry.  I thought about staking out the hotel parking lot the next night too.  I thought about using pepper spray on them if I caught them.  It was fun to imagine the scumbags lying on the ground writhing in pain.

Upon more reflection, I decided it was a bad idea to do that and realized that it was just a random event that happened to me.  I have not had anyone break into a vehicle of mine for a very long time.  In thinking more about it, based on the fact they stole anything they could grab including boxes of books, they were probably just kids or gang members hoping to score something valuable.  With me they hit the proverbial jackpot.

I too am highly skilled with firearms and other hand-to-hand techniques that can visit mayhem and injury on those who would cross me.  But I won’t use those skills without proper cause.  It is not worth the long term ramifications on my life and the lives of those that depend on me and care for me.  I would submit that after cooling down and getting some perspective on the situation, you will probably agree with me.

As far as the legal issues if you followed through, you would potentially be committing first degree murder.  By lying in wait for them, you would be premeditating which makes it first degree murder.  In Arizona, that crime can carry the death penalty.  Frankly you sound like an intelligent individual whose life is worth much more than sitting jail because of some scumbag gang banger or delinquent.

Regarding your question on the extension of domicile, I believe you might be referring to the ‘castle doctrine’.  While Arizona does support the ‘castle doctrine’, you must actually be in your vehicle for it to apply.  It basically states that if someone is attempted to remove you from your vehicle by force, you can legally use force to prevent it.  If someone is attempting to remove you from your vehicle using potentially lethal force, you can then use lethal force to stop it.

I’d let it go.  Make it a point to part in a well lighted area of the apartment lot.  If you spot is assigned and not well lighted, complain to the complex management and get better lighting.  Don’t leave anything in your vehicle.  If you don’t have one, consider getting an alarm.  Make sure it has a flashing light so that people can see there is an alarm.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. V.G. says:

    I have to jump in here as a CCW instructor and for a little more clarification. A person cannot use deadly force to protect property. You can use deadly force to protect yourself or another person from being murdered of severly injured, either in you home or car. If they haven’t made a move on you and are leaving with your property you can only dial 911 and check to see if your insurance covers you and what your deductable is.

    P.S. A dit bag got into my apartment so I know how you feel.

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  2. Doug Little says:

    V.G is exactly correct. I probably should have expanded my explanation a bit to include what he added in his comments. Thanks for the further additional info.

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