What are the legal limits of defending ones property? CSI: Mailbox baseball

by inkling 28 Replies latest jw friends

  • inkling

    So I was watching CSI this week and a homeowner, in attempt teach a lesson
    to local kids who kept bashing his mailbox while playing mailbox baseball,
    fills his mailbox with cement one night.

    That night, a kid swings at the box, breaks his shoulder, the bat shatters
    and hits the driver, the car veers of the road, hitting a tree and killing
    both kids.

    The man was charged with negligent homicide.

    This got me thinking... What are you actually allowed to do in attempt
    to protect personal property?

    I mean, I know you are allow to use lethal force against a dangerous
    intruder, but what about pranksters or thieves?

    Are you allowed to set traps on your property to intentionally harm

    Do you need to warn someone before hurting them?

    (this is entirely hypothetical, BTW. I don't have any personal experience)


  • wha happened?
    wha happened?

    well first of all, it's just a TV show.

    Different states have different laws for what is considered, self defense. I remember some time ago a man was shot while attempting to break into a car and steel it in TX. The owner of the car, saw this and shot the man. Can't remember if he was killed or not. The owner did not break the law in TX.

  • Big Tex
    Big Tex

    Depends on the state.

    In Texas there is something called the Castle Doctrine. Which means a homeowner can shoot and kill an intruder without having to prove his life was in danger. In fact there was a case recently where a neighbor shot and killed a man breaking into the house next door. He was not charged.

    However there is also a longstanding legal responsibility of homeowners to injuries suffered on their property. The classic case is someone slipping and falling. The homeowner is liable for damages in such a case.

  • hillbilly

    depends on the state..

    Michigan would require you to retreat from a full- on assault...if you could retreat safely. You would be charged if you used deadly force to defend property.

    States like Florida base laws on the Castle Doctrine... if you come into my home uninvited to steal or harm me... take your chances I can use deadly force if needed to defend live and property.

    Texas will allow deadly force in defense of property.


  • Kudra

    I saw that show too and thought that the mailbox filled with cement was awesome.

    I will totally do that if I have similar problems. I don't see how it could be illegal. It couldn't be called "an attractive nuisance", could it? I mean, ferchristsake, it's a mailbox...

    Anyone here know if that would be illegal?


  • Mandette

    I do know that traps are illegal in most places. More because they may harm the innocent. Postal workers, utilities etc that have a legitimate reason to be on your property.

    As far as property, all states have different laws. With force at least here in Michigan, you have to a fear for your safety. That's the big one...."I was in fear for my life"......words to LIVE by....

  • Big Tex
    Big Tex

    Mailboxes are not supposed to be tampered with. My understanding is that it is illegal to do so. But I don't know if that's a federal or state law.

    I do remember reading in the paper years ago of someone being charged after putting ex-lax in some brownies (cookies?). Probably the same legal principle.

  • leavingwt

    We have the Castle Doctrine, here in MS. No retreat required.

    It's much more convenient. Now, when we shoot folks on our property, we don't have to drag them into the house.


  • cameo-d
  • Mandette


    I could be wrong but I think Michigan just passed or is in the process of passing a law that says you don't have to retreat. I'll have to research that.

    And while I like the idea of cement in the mailbox no one deserves to die for that kind of stupidity.


  • inkling
    I do know that traps are illegal in most places. More because they may harm the innocent.

    But with the cemented mailbox, the ONLY person it could possible hurt is someone driving in a car swinging at it with a baseball bat.

  • Mandette

    Right.....but it's a 1+1 theory. Does defense of a mailbox warrant a death? I didn't say I didn't like the idea only that I didn't think mailbox destruction deserved death.

    And Hill? Here it is....


    If the link doesn't work just Google "Michigan's retreat law"


  • inkling
    And while I like the idea of cement in the mailbox no one deserves to die for that kind of stupidity.

    To be clear, I totally agree. I think it was a cruel and sad overkill.

    Even wishing "just" a broken arm seems pretty mean.

    I think a more fitting ploy would be to fill it with paint, to ruin the car's paint job and upholostry...


  • hillbilly

    I hope so Mandette... that was about the dumbest law they had up there.

    If you need a deputy in Bay or Midland county after they get there you are SOL... especially Bay County. What a bunch of weak knees f*c*ers.! And I say that as a person who has lost family in the line of duty. The guys are mostly ok... but the Sherrifs and County Atty dont back em. Kinda ties an officers hands when he is in the feild if he fears not being backed if he makes a call.

    I see that handgun registration law finally got tossed too... what a nifty way to waste $5 bucks and 2 trips to the police station.

    I transfered my sons collection of handguns to him when he was 19... out of 5 guns ... 2 of then did not show up in the data base... and the clerk told me that happened all the time. So much for a system to fight crime!


  • daniel-p

    The mailbox story reminds me of a more lighthearted (but true) story: A husband and wife were up on a mountain, spending a day in the snow, frolicking about, and building snowmen on the side of the road, to go along with the many other snowmen that had been built by families that day. However, a truck came along with some idiot driving it, and the guy was gleefully veering over and smashing all the snowmen to bits as he drove up the snowy mountain road. The wife, who had just built one of the destroyed snowmen was crestfallen. Normally demure and quite timid, she was furious. She suggested something to her husband, and although he was taken aback by the plan, he chuckled as he went along with it. They turned back around on the road and went a little ways down the mountain till they saw a stump just off to the side. They knew the guy had to come back down this road, since it was a logging road and had only one entry and exit leading back down the mountain. So they got out and built a nice big snowman around it, so no one would know it had a heart of wood. Well, after it was done they went all the way back down the mountain to the general store in the valley to get a hot drink, when here comes roaring down the road the truck they saw smashing the snowmen. The front of his truck was caved in and the fenders were all bent to heck so the tires scraped the wheels as they turned. He stopped and came in the store, his face all red and flummoxed like he had just cussed himself up a storm. He asked the store owner for a phone for a tow truck, since he didn't think he could make it any farther. The husband and wife left as inconspicuously as they could.

  • Mandette

    Awwww Hill I'm so sorry about your family. I had a dear friend murdered in the line of duty May 9, 2005. And another friend killed 3 weeks ago in the line of duty.

    (((((((Hill)))))) hugs.........


  • SnakesInTheTower

    inkling...I seen that episode too... the concrete was overkill, interesting that the mailbox was swappable. I knew an old farmer out in the country got tired of the kids and he anchored his steel post in concrete in the ground and extended the steel post into the mailbox. The story I heard was that some kid did break his arm..... the CSI episode reminds us that we need to be responsible for our actions as well.

    I like the paint idea....however....what if that paint splattered on the windshield and blocked the drivers' view and they swerved and hit an oncoming car and killed innocent people?

    The stump in a snowman idea was also an interesting story....thankfully no one was hurt.... the driver was reckless going off the road to hit snowmen...but what if someone was behind the trucker and instead of seeing him hit the stump...the driver hit the truck and was impaled by logs?

    I think the best idea was the removable mailbox in the CSI story... remove it at night (or after you get the mail)...then if the kids hit the post...well...then the homeowner wouldn't face charges...as long as the post itself is well marked with reflectors.

    Interesting thread.

    Snakes ()

  • byebyeborg

    In OKlahoma we have two laws that apply:

    1) the "make my day law"

    2) the "stand your ground law"

    Under these two laws we can legally blow the bastards away if they are threatening us (and we fear for our safety) wherever we happen to be

    booby traps are unlawful nearly everywhere

    i sleep with a 357 magnum under my pillow and a shotgun above my head ---- any so called home invaders will be blown away if they come in on me

  • mustang
    Anyone here know if that would be illegal?


    If you had a REASON to fill it with concrete, you could have a plausible argument to defend whatever happened.

    I would have done it differently:

    Buy a rather LARGE mailbox and a smaller one. They come in a variety of sizes and the same general shape.

    Set the large one on end with the open up; put the smaller one inside the larger one. Adjust the airgap between the two about equally all around.

    Now pour the concrete and "rod it" for consistency.

    Let it harden, setting the concrete.

    Now install your armored mailbox.

    Now for some mental exercises: you have to consider the "Reasonable Man" construct or Legal theory. What reason would you have to deploy a solid filled mailbox?

    That speaks against doing what the story portrayed. If the pranksters did that to the mailbox owner, it would be considered Malicious Mischief or something similar. That's a genuine and applicable charge.

    The Reasonable man examination would further ask: what does the Post Office say about this? Frankly, the Post Office considers that IT owns the box, even though you supply it. And the box can be anything you desire as long as it is SERVICEABLE. The solid concrete mailbox is not serviceable. The Reasonable man is going to have trouble with your solid concrete mailbox.

    The Reasonable Man may also have trouble, in counter, seeing that you could foresee such a bizarre and awkward chain of events that was portrayed. This lessens your liability.

    However, it gets you back to something along the lines of Malicious Mischief, but no quite. (Malicious Mischief specifically refers to damage inflicted on the property of ANOTHER, not your own property.)

    Now the Reasonable Man and the Post Office would find a lot less issue with your armored PO box. It is not an unReasonable response to property damage.

    In the same vein as the above mental exercises, setting traps IS DEFINITELY FROWNED ON LEGALLY. I don't know the exact reasoning, but DON'T TRY IT.

    Defenses would be based on Tort theories; but such invoking Tort theories generally requires a Tort warning to be posted.

    And reasonable man queries here involve the "foreseeable" danger on both sides. On the one side, could the mailbox owner have foreseen such far reaching consequences? Regardless of how far you carried it, a Tort Warning should have been posted for such an unusual act.

    This gets into the "Attractive Nuisance" matter. These usually refer to unattended holes, swimming pools, trees that can be climbed and so forth. The deadly mailbox is difficult to see, foresee or fathom.

    Additionally, joyriding pranksters are not unknown: Coroner's Inquests frequently write these matters off as "Death by Misadventure" and with no chargeable offense. It is possible that a Coroner's Inquest could do otherwise and request a further investigation.

    Hard to say; but look at OJ's case: I think this would easier to defend Criminally than Civilly!!!

    I have trouble foreseeing the events portrayed myself and frankly the writers look like they really did a stretch on this one. I believe it borders on the absurd, but strange things do happen.


  • AGuest

    in every state of this country is:

    1. You can defend the interior your home; however, you cannot use deadly force to defend the interior of your home unless you (or another) are threatened with deadly force

    2. If the intruder is retreating, you must let him/her retreat (i.e., you cannot shoot an intruder in the back)

    3. You cannot use deadly force to defend property under any circumstance

    4. You cannot "booby" trap your home or any part of it

    5. You can use like force to defend yourself and/or others (i.e., if s/he has a gun, you can use a gun; if s/he has a slingshot, you cannot use a gun); thus,

    6. You can kill to keep from being killed... or another from being killed; however,

    7. You cannot use deadly force if you (or another) are not being threatened with deadly force

    In the case mentioned at first, it would be negligent homicide because (1) the mailbox was booby trapped; (2) there was no IMMINENT threat of danger to life; (3) a mailbox is property. As a result of the booby trap, someone's life was lost, which is homicide. There was no legal justification.


    A slave of Christ,


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