Image Source: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2012/04/12/20/46/revolution-30590_960_720.png
Earlier this month, protesters broke into the police headquarters in Portland, Oregon and started a fire inside the building. This protest was held in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneappolis officer in Mineapolis.
The fire was built from cardboard boxes and other flammable items that were initially lit ablaze in the middle of a street in downtown Portland. A video later showed people breaking into Pioneer Place mall and looting many stores, among them, a Louis Vuitton Store. As firefighters responded to the fires, protesters pelted police with projectiles. The police officers responded by launching tear gas at the rioters.
Other states have several reports of the same behavior, with rioters breaking store windows and looting. There is also other news of store owners,using force to defend their property from looters.
While it’s indeed your right to defend your property from trespassers, it’s important to use reasonable force in doing so. Here’s why:
Property Owners Are Liable For The Safety Of Their Visitors By Default
There is a legal principle referred to as “premise liability” that states that property owners have to ensure that their property is safe for the people that visit it. This means that when a person is injured because of a poorly-maintained property, that person may sue the property owner for damages. Under the normal course of things, this is the legal recourse taken, and there are many resources, like this website, that cater to such a scenario.
However, there still seem to be people who are confused as to how this law works when looting is involved.
When looters attempt to trespass on a property, property owners do indeed have the right to defend their property and they are not usually going to be held responsible for the well-being of a trespasser. A person has these rights because they are acting in a lawful manner when they function as a customer.
A person trespassing doesn’t usually enjoy these rights because that person should not be in the property to begin with. Couple this with the fact that most stores are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also erroneous to think that a property owner can do whatever he wants to a trespasser. The law will always value human life over property value. A property owner must still exercise reason in defending his property.
As a general rule, reasonable force refers to whether the action taken was sufficient in order to stop the threat posed by a trespasser. Shooting at looters who were merely gathering outside a store is not reasonable force, while firing a warning shot at someone who has just threatened you with violence is reasonable.
Different states take different approaches to a scenario where a property owner defends himself (and in the process, uses deadly force). For example, in Texas, a property owner may be justified in his use of lethal force if he reasonably believes that the failure to use lethal force will bring harm to himself and others in his care.
While the right to protest is one that our very nation is built on, we should never allow a protest to devolve into violence. The law remains, even during lawlessness.
@lorelyn @brynel_maries Edited