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The Legalities Of Defending Your Home And Family

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defending your home

It’s highly crucial to be aware of doing what’s legally and morally correct when defending your home and family.

I see a lot written about defending the home in the wake of a crisis or during a time of social breakdown. Those are indeed dangerous times and we definitely need to be ready to defend ourselves and our homes. But I think we need to take a step back from all our defensive planning for a moment. First of all, we need to make sure that what we are planning on doing is both legally correct and morally correct.

TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It)

Some individuals use the argument that they will be operating during a time when there will be a breakdown of law and order. That might very well be true. If we face a true TEOTWAWKI event, chances are fairly high that law enforcement will be ineffective. In that situation, it will be every man for himself.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that things will stay that way. One of our goals, beyond survival, should be to restore society. We certainly need to restore it to the more stable model of yesteryear. I’m sure there will unavoidably be those who want to take advantage of lawless times. Still, I believe that most people will want to return to at least some semblance of normality. Restoring law and order is merely a part of that.

In addition, you can be sure that once law and order are restored there will be a push to prosecute those who committed crimes during the time of lawlessness. This charge will, most likely, be led by those of the lace panty brigade. These people think that it is criminal to own a gun. In fact, they feel that it’s even more criminal to use that gun in your own defense.

What that means is that if you have no choice besides defending your home and your family in such a time, there’s a pretty good chance that someone will bring you up on charges. Maybe that won’t happen immediately, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen eventually. There is no statute of limitations on murder. Also, it will be much easier for law enforcement officers to find law-abiding citizens who had to defend themselves than it will be to find the criminals who they were defending themselves from.

Defending Your Home: What Does The Law Say?

Laws on self-defense vary from state to state. However, there are many similarities. Basically, the right to use deadly force to defend your own life is universally accepted here in the United States. Nonetheless, how people interpret this right can vary greatly from state to state.

Many states have some version of the castle doctrine. This basically states that you don’t have to abandon your home if criminals happen to invade it. Rather, you can defend yourself and your home by using deadly force if necessary.

Notwithstanding, most self-defense situations aren’t as clear-cut as we’d like them to be. That’s why many cases of self-defense end up in the courtroom. Moreover, the person who defended themselves physically now has to defend themselves from both criminal and civil charges. The cost of that defense can ruin a person financially. So, even though they were able to save their own life, they suffer dearly in the aftermath of doing so.

Important Legal Terms To Know When Defending Your Home

There are some key legal terms that apply here and are used in the determination of self-defense. To start with, a court of law will only consider an act as self-defense if you are in “imminent danger of life or limb.” There are two parts to that term. The first, “imminent,” means that it is something happening right now. A verbal threat does not entail imminent danger, but someone pointing a gun or knife at you does. The second term, “life or limb,” merely means that they can kill or seriously harm you.

Yet, there’s another term which often gets connected to this first one. It’s known as the “reasonable person clauses.” In a nutshell, this means that a reasonable person would agree with your assessment that you are in imminent danger of life or limb. Of course, that’s a judgment call, so what the law is saying is that someone inevitably had to make a judgment. In the courtroom then, you would maintain that you made the same decision when defending your home that any reasonable person would.

What this means is that the average person can see that you are facing down death personified. Furthermore, it is acceptable for you to use deadly force to stop them from killing or seriously injuring you.

Once again, this is all based upon judgment calls. If a criminal jumps me with nothing more than a small knife, can I justifiably pull out a gun and shoot him? The law will usually judge this scenario as reasonable, but there is always a risk that it may not. If I am clearly stronger, better trained in martial arts, or armed with a less-lethal weapon, they might say that I used “excessive force.” On the other hand, if my wife were in the same situation, a court would probably find her to be innocent because she is a woman and a man is attacking her.

Defending Your Home: Applying The Law To A Survival Situation

Ok, so let’s look at how this all applies to a theoretical TEOTWAWKI event. In this kind of predicament, there is a breakdown of law and order. Moreover, starving gangs with criminal intent are roaming your neighborhood with an eye to steal any food they can find.

Generally speaking, if you are in your home and they are outside it, you can’t call it an imminent threat. So, using a sniper rifle to take them out while they are still down the street doesn’t fit the definition of self-defense. In fact, about the only way that you could say that you are in imminent danger is if they start shooting at your home or damaging your home in an attempt to gain access. That would change the situation and it would then be self-defense.

Some states allow the use of deadly force for the protection of property as well as the protection of life. In those cases, you could probably make a good defense of using deadly force if they were coming onto your property to steal produce from your vegetable garden, your chickens, or your goats. But to make your defense stick, you would have to clearly define your property borders, such as with a fence or hedge.

Regardless of whether they are in my home or just on my property, they are only a threat to me as long as they are facing me. This can get a little tricky because if they are moving from one fighting position to another and turn sideways to you in order to do it, they are technically not an imminent threat. This is true even though they are not retreating and are merely looking to put themselves in a more advantageous position from which to shoot at you.

Defending Your Home: Don’t Just Prepare Your Physical Defense

This type of prospect is a real risk. Therefore, you shouldn’t only plan a physical defense for defending your home, but rather a legal defense as well. If you are ever forced to defend home and family in a post-disaster world, you want to be sure that you can easily prove that the actions you took were reasonable actions to protect you from the loss of life or limb.

One of the best ways of doing this is with video or photographic evidence if you can. Obviously, that may not be possible in some situations. However, if it is it would be good to have one family member acting as the official recorder, thereby creating evidence that you can use in court. I realize that this concept sounds ridiculous in a do-or-die situation, but you have to think the whole thing through.

The other thing you need to do is ensure that your actions will pass muster. Don’t take action out of fear or anger. Rather, have a good defensive plan and stick to it. As part of that plan, make sure that there is no question about the criminal intent of the bad guys before you take action.

This is why I have a hedge around the front of my home. It provides me with a clearly defined defensive line. At the same time, it also ensures that anyone trying to gain access to my property only has limited entry points. It would be extremely hard to get over or through that hedge. Should I be faced with a gang attacking my home, that hedge provides me with a clear demarcation line. I can use this boundary to show that anyone who came within it was attacking my home.


Be sure to know the laws in the state in which you reside. But more than that, know how the courts look at cases of self-defense. How the courts interpret laws is just as important as what the law says. Make sure that you take the time to find out more about these important legal matters as you consider defending your home in the best possible way.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and am not offering legal advice. I am nothing more than a survival expert. The information I am providing is based on my own studies of the situation. I intend for these statements to be a word of warning, not a word of permission. More than anything, my intent is to get people to think through their defensive strategy. This is as opposed to assuming that they can just shoot anyone who seems to be a threat.

You may also enjoy reading an additional Off The Grid News article: Important Home Defense Reminders

Or download our free 40-page report on how to keep your property safe in uncertain times: Protect Your Perimeter

What other legal issues would you need to consider when defending your home and family? Let us know in the comments below.

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