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Hand cuffing a robber and warning signs. State of PA,


Hello if we get robbed and can stop the robber with out deadly force, Can he/she be hand cuffed by the home owner until the police arrive? And is having signs up like never mind the dog beware of owner with a gun showing a bad idea? Thanks Al

All use of force cases, deadly and non-deadly, are fact specific. The right answer in one specific case can be the wrong answer in a slightly different one. Without developing a lot of the facts, writing in generalities is difficult. However, we will try here.

The question is really one more of tactics than of law.

If you are actively being robbed (meaning in the legal sense a theft with some level of force) or it is both objectively and subjectively reasonable to believe under the totality of the circumstances that you are imminently going to be robbed, yes, you can actually use lethal deadly force to defend yourself. The most frequent of these types of things that we see are in the case of the ATM. Perhaps it is not your best day in terms of situational awareness and someone gets the drop on you with a gun, you are then being actively robbed. As such, the law authorizes you to use deadly force, not merely display or reference, but actually kill. Change the facts a little and the result can be totally different. Suppose you are at an ATM and you see someone is merely behind you (Not a great place to find yourself generally. Perhaps the best thing to do is to let that person cut in front of you or cancel the transaction, but that is situational awareness and threat avoidance, not the law), this person who is behind you shows no pre-incident indicators, is like most people nose deep into his phone, and appears to be not a threat. You may not use deadly force because it is not objectively reasonable (even though you may subjectively feel) that you are about to be robbed.

Those are extreme cases that provide bookends. The murky area is in that great middle that we call the real world. It is a world where you have to make split second decisions based upon incomplete information, one where hesitancy can equal your death, and one where a bad decision can lead to jail.

So, let’s examine a more complicated scenario. Suppose you are at the ATM. Because you are practicing good situational awareness, you see a person lurking about 15 meters away. They are exhibiting several pre-incident indicators such as “picking” at their waistband area, loitering with no explanation, and seem to be looking all around (looking to make sure that there are no witnesses). You turn to orient yourself to the potential threat but not aggressively so. His reaction is to grab in his waistband with high elbows in a drawing fashion for what you believe to be a gun, but it turns out in a split second to be a knife. You react by pulling your gun. The robber does the math and realized that he brought the wrong tool to work today. He throws down the knife immediately before you are on target with a good sight picture and have made sure your back drop is sound. He throws his hands up in the air and otherwise totally surrenders. Can you now use lethal deadly force? Absolutely not. No immanency. He just stands there. You instruct him to face away. He decides to practice run-fu and takes off. Can you now use lethal deadly force? Absolutely not. No threat and we do not live in a fleeing felon world for private citizens. Change the facts. You order him to turn around. He does. You order him on his knees. He does. You order him to cross his feet at the ankles. He does. You instruct him to put his hands behind his neck and interlace his fingers. He does. Can you now use lethal deadly force? Absolutely not. Now you think to yourself, I want to make sure he doesn’t get away so I want to physically restrain him. Can you legally do so? Perhaps. But boy is that dumb. Police officers get many, many hours of training on how to restrain someone. They usually do it in a team or in such a way that the polyester dogpile can help overcome resistance. The notion of putting handcuffs on someone or tying up their arms is really really risky. First, a firearm is a distance tool best used at distance. Restraining someone is a contact event meaning no distance. Not a good idea. Plus, what are you going to do with your weapon, re-holster it? Not the best move versus just keeping him at distance and at gun point. You are not the police. Wait for the police. Keep the gun in one hand while you fiddle with handcuffs and/or zip ties? Not a great idea because of sympathetic reaction that may come with attempting to restrain causing a negligent discharge. Even if you have significant open hand skills, even if you are former LEO, don’t close that gap. And if he runs off, don’t pursue the fleeing felon and for goodness sake don’t shoot the fleeing felon. You are not police.

As far as signage goes, myself personally, my home has surveillance and an alarm. I DO post those signs because I want the potential burglar to know that he has other easier options to choose from that will be easier. As far as “beware owner has a gun” signs, it is up to you, but I am personally not a big fan. But all sorts of those signs are lawful (subject to HOA or zoning ordinances). The big advantage that any private citizen has in a home invasion is that it is your home and you are familiar with it. Why give the bad guy who is bent on entering your house despite the alarm and surveillance posting, despite the audible alarm going off, and despite the video recording being perfect evidence against him or her any clue as to what level of resistance he or she may encounter?

Thanks very much. Well written easy to understand.


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