Thursday, July 2, 2009

Email From a Friend Who's House Was Broken Into

Yesterday morning, Jen received a phone call from a Phoenix police officer informing her that he and another officer were in our house investigating a possible break-in.
They needed at least one of us to come back to the house because a window had been broken, leaving the house unsecure, and they were unable to leave the house unattended.

(Question #1--What if this situation happens to a homeown er who isn't in town, and happens to have no friends or family nearby that they can call?)

We both came back to the house, and upon arriving surveyed the house quickly to see if there were any noticeable missing items. (As of yet, we can't think of anything that has disappeared.) The officers showed us the point of entry, which was a spare bedroom being used as our computer office. (Geographically, the window is on the north side of the house, next to a laundry room window, whose screen was pried off in their likely first attempt. The front door faces east, to the street.) They had pried off a screen, damaging the framework on the outside. They then used a rock to break through the double paned glass, reached through the hole, and unlocked the window. When the officers arrived, the window had been unlocked and pulled up.

From what the officers could tell, it did not appear as if the intruder actually ever got into the house. In fortune undefined, our next door neighbor to the north made a 911 call, which alerted the officers to the scene. We haven't yet gotten to talk directly to the20neighbors to find out what exactly happened, but it seems likely that they scared the burglar(s) away by sound or proximity. The officer informed us that one of our screens was in the neighbor's yard....which means either the officers saw it there, or the neighbor heard the breaking glass and came out to investigate, or even simply looked out a window. This likely scared them away.

The police dusted and found a print on the window, estimated the damages, and were on their way. There is one funny part of the story, that occurred when the officers were doing the sweep of the house to see if anyone was hiding inside.....while checking the walk-in closet off of the main bedroom, one of the officers was rather startled when a similarly startled cat sprang from it's normal sleeping spot.....they had a good laugh at that. I can only imagine....

It's the possible scenarios that are the most interesting to initial reaction was of relief that Jen wasn't home at the time.....tele-commuting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they had picked a day in which she wasn't there.....random or not is an entirely new line of possibilities. The officers, however, disagreed...saying that a disturbing trend is for intruders to ring the doorbell as a solicitor, checking to see if someone is at home or if a dog is in the house.

The scenario opened up a few questions for me, and I'm sure there will be more......

#2. If someone is in the house, she does not need to pronounce that she has a weapon, correct?

#3. If she had been home, heard the glass break, and went into the office (standing inside, looking out) with gun in hand to inspect.....finding the intruder still outside standing on a chair as if to come she within her rights to shoot at that point?

#3b. If she had been home, and went around to the back side of the house to inspect from the outside, where is she within her right to shoot?

#4. I seem to remember a story in Texas, who has20different laws on this one, but what rights did the neighbors have at any point in this?

#5. What are the liabilities that we have concerning [our] unsecured weapon in the case of a break-in?

I would first like to say that I am glad that both Matt and Jenn are safe and nothing was stolen from the house. I would like to thank Matt for allowing me to post his story on this blog and allow everyone to read his story and share in answering his questions. I would like to also ask that our law enforcement readers throw their 2 cents into the mix.

Second, I would like to remind everyone that the following answers are my opinion, though educated, they are only opinion and you should look up your own answers or ask a lawyer.

Remember: No matter what anyone says, no matter how the law is written, only the people involved in the altercation know what happened. It will be up to people sitting behind desks to decide whether to try the case or not. If they do, then it is up to 12 people to convict you or find you innocent. I would rather be tried by 12 then carried by 6.

#1. If you are out of town and the police can not contact someone, I can not imagine they are going to watch your house till you get back. I have no clue what would happen. Hopefully, a police officer would be able to tell us.

#2. No one has a responsibility to retreat or offer any kind of warning in the sanctity of their own home. I look at it this way. If you are trained and in control you can give a warning and that is awefully nice. If you are scared shitless and barely able to hold the gun, then do not give away your position and hope the cops show before a confrontation.

#3. It is my understanding that once they have broken into your home, whether or not they are inside, they represent a danger and you are justified in defending yourself. At the point you discribe, I can not imagine anyone not agreeing that you would feel indangered for your life.

#3b. This gets trickier as I am not exactly sure what the law states in this case. Things start to go gray here. For example, you are no longer in your home and therefore could retreat. However, the scenario changes if they become agressive. If you come out and confront them and they run, then you really have no fear of death, if they turn toward you and move forward, you are now in danger of being attacked. (this scenerio is covered in one of my very early posts)

#4. You owe your neighbors lunch, dinner, a bbq, beer, or what every they like. They really saved your property by being aware, vigilant, and proactive. If they had taken it a step forward and investigated the situation, with a firearm perhaps, they would fall under the same rules as 3b. They do not know who these people are, maybe its you and you locked yourself out, or you sent someone to do what ever. They can investigate and confront, if threatened they have every right given to the rest of us to defend themselves.

That man in Texas was a wierd story in that he called the cops, gave them a play by play of the burglary, was told to stay inside, then ran out and confronted the robbers, and shot them. A man after my own heart in the fact that he confronted bad guys, but wierd in how he chose to confront them.

#5. This is something your story put in my head straight away. Oh shit, was the gun stolen? I do not know the actual law, but during my CCW class it was stressed that our weapon is our responsibility even if stolen. I have never heard of a case being tried where a person was charged after their gun was stolen and used in a subsequent crime. This is another question I would like a police officer or lawyer to answer.

Again, these are my personal answers and are no way a representation of law. If you want exact answers look them up or call a lawyer please. Then post the answers on here.


James said...

Part 1.
OK...I started to reply to this the day it posted and I typed for 30 minutes. Yes I type with 2 fingers. Then it all disappeared. So after I nearly punched the screen, and did a lot of screaming and yelling, and gave it a couple of days, let me try again.
#1. The police are going to enter the house to check and make sure there is no one inside good or bad. If they can't immediately get someone to take control of the house, they would check inside to find a phone number. A lot of people have "mom" listed on a speed dial or something else. If all else fails, there is a private security company that is contracted with Phoenix. I think that the owner would get billed for this, but I'm not sure. I have only seen this process used for a business. I would recommend either telling your nieghbors of any out of town trip, or leaving some type of contact number were it could be found.
#2 and #3 This is the Arizona Revised Statute on deadly force involving your residence or car:
13-418. Justification; use of force in defense of residential structure or occupied vehicles; definitions
A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a person is justified in threatening to use or using physical force or deadly physical force against another person if the person reasonably believes himself or another person to be in imminent peril of death or serious physical injury and the person against whom the physical force or deadly physical force is threatened or used was in the process of unlawfully or forcefully entering, or had unlawfully or forcefully entered, a residential structure or occupied vehicle, or had removed or was attempting to remove another person against the other person's will from the residential structure or occupied vehicle.
B. A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force pursuant to this section.
This means your home is your castle and you can defend it. A reasonable person can infer that if there is someone inside of your house, they can cause you serious physical injury or death. It also meens that if someone tries to force you out of your vehicle or home, even without presenting a weapon to you, deadly force can be used.
#3b. I think we have pretty much beat this one to death (pun intended) on this blog. The requirment to use deadly force in this case is the same as any other scenario. The code is very clear, yet open for lots of interpretation:
13-405. Justification; use of deadly physical force
A person is justified in threatening or using deadly physical force against another:
1. If such person would be justified in threatening or using physical force against the other under section 13-404, and
2. When and to the degree a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force.

continued in part 2

James said...

Part 2.

And this is the previous section regarding self defense:
13-404. Justification; self-defense
A. Except as provided in subsection B of this section, a person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.
B. The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified:
1. In response to verbal provocation alone; or
2. To resist an arrest that the person knows or should know is being made by a peace officer or by a person acting in a peace officer's presence and at his direction, whether the arrest is lawful or unlawful, unless the physical force used by the peace officer exceeds that allowed by law; or
3. If the person provoked the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless:
(a) The person withdraws from the encounter or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely withdraw from the encounter; and
(b) The other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against the person

#4. Nuff said. Steve pretty much nailed it.

#5. There is no criminal liabilty for a gun owner if his or her weapon is stolen, unless there was some type of negligence. That would be like being responsible if a drunk stole your car and then killed someone. And remember Steve, the CCW guys aren't always accurate with their information. Remember Vicki's class?

Byrd's bottom line.....thank god no one had to put any of these hypothetical situations into play.

Jen said...

In response to Byrd's response to #1: I'm still not sure how the officer got a hold of me. He go my cell phone number through City of Phoenix, calling the number they had on file for our water bill. He didn't get ahold of me on the first try, though, because I was in a meeting. He told me he got onto my computer to try to find a phone number ... and when I checked my computer after he left, a document called "family addresses" was open (which contains phone numbers) as well as the "contact us" webpage for University of Phoenix. He was definitely doing what he could to get a hold of me and secure the house.

Neighbor update: After multiple attempts to talk to the neighbors, only to find no one at home, I finally was able to talk to them yesterday. The woman said she heard a noise and peeked out her window to see the screen off and the window broken. She didn't come outside or make any noise, but she kept peeking outside as she waited for the police to arrive ... so maybe the intruder(s) saw her peeking out, got scared, and took off.