Thursday, December 06, 2007

FIGHT OR FLIGHT


What would you do if you were confronted by an intruder in your home late one night? Would you run for the hills? Would you ask the intruder what they were up to? Would you defend the place, yourself, your loved ones.? Well, in lots of states if you choose self defense and shoot the intruder you'd better be able to prove you were in immediate danger of great bodily harm...or you might get sued.

In Ohio they're trying to reverse that and force the intruder to prove he wasn't a danger to you.

I don't know, call me crazy, but that sounds damn reasonable to me...well, depending on how the law reads anyway.

I'm not talking about shooting some cat burglar who is trying to crawl OUT the window or trying to escape out the door. You know I don't want to kill someone over a bit of property. I swear I'm not into shooting people for nothing.

But if I felt my life or someone I loved life was in danger, well then, yeah, I'd want the right to defend myself and them without worry about civil actions. Truth is it's really doubtful anyone in that situation would worry about getting sued. And truth is, it's hard to imagine a jury giving a judgment to a bad guy under those circumstances, but you never know and the price of defending yourself in such a civil suit, well, read about poor Ryan Cundiff in the article below.

I know the argument that we don't need a whole bunch of accidental shootings of sons and daughters coming in late at night, but it shouldn't take to long to determine if the intruder is a bad guy or your grandma. If the intruder is coming at you, it might not hurt to yell out for the person to identify themselves. You know, the old, "stop or I'll shoot." Unless they happen to be pointing a firearm at you.

If possible your best line of defense is probably to retreat. Confronting intruders doesn't necessarily work out so well anyway. You don't know what you're up against--how many people there are, where they are, and what they're armed with.

But if you do pull a gun on someone, you'd better be prepared to use it...and most of us really aren't. Most of us really down deep don't want to shoot anybody.

"If you reasonably think you are in danger, you can defend yourself," Marie Failinger, who teaches criminal law at Hamline University in Minnesota told told WCCO after a 73 year old man shot and killed an intruder in the Twin Cities. "People have to fear that the person breaking in is going to harm them seriously or kill them."

Actually, in Minnesota the laws goes further than that.

It states that "...taking a life is not authorized except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which one reasonably believes exposes one to great bodily harm or death or preventing the commission of a felony in one's place of abode."

That includes stealing valuable property, worth at least $250. It's what the law calls "defense of dwelling," and the intruder doesn't even have to have a weapon.

I wouldn't shoot someone for a piece of property and I don't think we ought to be encouraging people to do so. The trouble is how do you know what's up in any particular situation. The question is should the burden of proof be on you or the intruder?

I mean would you punish the pregnant women in North Carolina who last year shot an armed intruder trying to rob her home. Detectives said 23-year-old Crystal Strickland -- 9 months pregnant and mother of two small children -- acted in self defense

"He broke into the apartment, she ran into the back bedroom where there were some children in the apartment to defend them, and when he entered into the bedroom area, shots were fired," said Debbie Tanna with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Strickland told authorities she did not know the armed man. Her two young girls were taking a nap when the violent encounter happened. The 3-year-old said she wasn't scared.

"I didn't get hurt," she said.

Strickland, like most people in that situation didn't really have time to take out a law book and check on local statutes. She didn't really feel like asking the man if his intentions were bad. She thought of her self and her kids and she took action.

Can't blame her.

The following is from the Crescent News (Defiance, Ohio).

Testimony heard on self-defense legislation in Ohio
By MARC KOVAC

COLUMBUS -- A note to crooks thinking about breaking into Ellen Wickham's home.

If you get past the locks, the lights, the alarms and the 160-pound Great Dane (named Henry), you can expect to be shot. On sight.

"Of course, I will call 911, but I won't wait for the police to arrive," the Columbus-area woman told state lawmakers Wednesday morning. "I, along with my firearm, am my first line of defense. Crime scene investigators are great photographers, but I prefer my pictures without blood and bruises."

Wickham was one of several proponents to testify before the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee in favor of Senate Bill 184, sponsored by 1st District Sen. Steve Buerher, R-Delta. (75th District Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican from Napoleon, introduced companion legislation in the Ohio House.)

The self-defense legislation would create the legal presumption that residents fighting back against home intruders acted in self defense and would grant them immunity from future civil claims made by the perpetrator. Under existing law, residents defending their homes against intruders must prove the perpetrators were close enough to do them harm and intended to do harm. The proposed legislation reverses those roles, forcing criminals to prove they did not intend to harm occupants. The civil provision would cover acts of self defense in homes or elsewhere and would prevent criminals from seeking civil recourse if injured while attacking others.

The change would help people like Ryan Cundiff, who recounted for lawmakers an attack that occurred on a rural farm in Carroll County six years ago. He and his girlfriend were camping on private property when they were accosted by a couple of trespassers. The situation escalated into an late-evening assault, with one of the drunken assailants hitting Cundiff's girlfriend on the side of the head with a paving brick, he said.

Cundiff shot the individual with a handgun he carried, seriously injuring him. He told lawmakers he has spent $30,000 defending himself against subsequent criminal charges against him (he was acquitted) and a pending civil complaint.

"I'm angry with my life," he said. "I could have graduated from graduate school this past year. Instead, I clean trash out of vacant foreclosed homes. ... (O)n the eve of that shooting I was 20 years old. Last month, I turned 27 years old and this case still has not gone to trial. My college fund was spent defending myself and I'm still defending myself to this day."

He added, "I've never been in trouble with the law until that fateful night. I did what I had to do, I protected myself and my life has been changed forever."

Wickham urged lawmakers to approve the bill and the "reasonable change in Ohio statutes" its provisions would provide to "law-abiding citizens."

"Why, when someone forcibly enters my home or forcibly holds me against my will, would I be held accountable for any injury I inflicted upon them?" she asked. "Why am I at risk for losing everything I have worked hard for if the criminal I defended myself against sues me in civil court? Who broke the law, and who is the real victim?"

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