A home invasion is a terrifying and potentially life-threatening situation that no one wants to experience. In such a scenario, making the right decisions can be crucial to ensuring your safety and the safety of your loved ones. One question that often arises is whether to announce to a home invader that you are armed.
Should You Announce Your Armed Status?
When faced with an intruder in your home, the decision to announce your armed status is not a straightforward one. There are valid arguments both for and against this course of action. Let’s examine them:
- Legal Considerations: From a legal perspective, announcing that you are armed can have its advantages. It establishes that you are not defenseless and can use force if necessary to protect yourself and your family. By doing so, you create a clear boundary, signaling to the intruder that further aggression could have serious consequences.
- Tactical Considerations: However, from a tactical standpoint, it is generally advised to stay in a safe space and call 911 rather than confronting the intruder alone. Engaging with an unknown intruder can be extremely risky. It is essential to prioritize personal safety and rely on law enforcement to handle the situation.
The Importance of Calling 911
Regardless of whether you choose to announce your armed status or not, immediately contacting emergency services should be your first priority. Dialing 911 ensures professional help is on the way. Remember to provide accurate and detailed information about the break-in, your location and any additional threats you may be aware of.
The USCCA’s Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals can provide the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions during a home invasion and understand the legal ramifications associated with using firearms for self-defense.
Surviving a home invasion requires careful consideration and preparation. Step one is to agree on and practice a home protection plan with your whole family. Everyone in the house of a reasonable age should have a role to play and know what that is when the worst happens.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with legal professionals or local authorities for specific guidance regarding your jurisdiction’s laws and regulations on self-defense and home invasion situations.
Kevin: You’re home at night and you hear glass break, and you realize someone’s come into your home. Do you tell that home invader you’re armed or do you stay quiet? In this video, we’ll talk with noted criminal defense attorney Tom Grieve, and we’ll break this question down.
Alright, Tom, do you announce to this home invader, “Hey, I got a gun, get out of my house,” or do you lay quietly and ambush him?
Tom: Um, probably not the wording I would use in court unless I’m the prosecutor.
Kevin: Well, the prosecutor is going to use that.
Tom: The prosecutor probably will use that language,
Kevin: That man over there ambushed the defenseless home invader.
Tom: Right, the defenseless, the poor innocent home invader who just stumbled in because they wanted to watch Netflix and chill.
So, you know, I think there are pros and cons both ways, right? Because the pro of announcing is obviously you’re hoping that that deters them and they leave. The con is you’ve just forfeited a lot of tactical advantages. They know that you’re here, they know where you are, and they know that you’re armed, or at least that you’re claiming to be armed, right?
From a legal perspective, I suppose at least if you do announce, you have now stated, you know, “I’m here, I’m not defenseless, and if you advance, something bad is going to happen,” right? So, at a minimum, it does kind of lay that groundwork of, look, here’s the red line, buddy, that you’ve got if you keep advancing.
So, from a defense attorney perspective, if I’m in court, would I rather have a client who’s announced or not? I mean, this side of Castle Doctrine, um, it’s probably better to have a client who has announced in states where there’s Castle Doctrine and there are less issues of deciphering whether or not someone had the ability to employ deadly force against a home invader at 2 a.m.
But the counterpoint to that is, okay, let’s say you announce and then they say, “Okay, I surrender”
Kevin: Yeah, now what’re you gonna do?
Tom: Or ‘I’m just here for help,’ and they’re not here for help, right? Oh, my, my buddy’s sick, can you come out and help me? Okay, so does that now rebut the fact that you could use Castle Doctrine? And they’re lying. They’re going to stab you the second you come around that corner or shoot you or whatever, right? Um, you now just have muddied the waters significantly.
Um, the upside is that maybe if that was your 22-year-old son back from college break and he stumbles in drunk at 2 a.m., hopefully, you’ve eliminated the fact that you’re going to use deadly force on someone that wasn’t there to harm you.
So, both from a tactics perspective as well as from a legal perspective, I think that it’s summed up as it’s a mixed bag both ways. And some of it, to some degree, is going to depend upon what the local laws are in your jurisdiction, what’s the presence of Castle Doctrine, what are the deadly force laws, and so forth.
As a defense attorney, would I rather have a client who announced? Probably yes. But does it also introduce risk for significantly muddying the waters to the point where deadly force and Castle Doctrine may be off the table because the bad guy knows how to play the system? Maybe, I’m not saying yes, I’m just saying maybe.
Kevin: And as we’re talking about tactics of defending yourself from a home invasion, lots of different scenarios, and I’m sure the people in the comments section are gonna say, “Yeah, but what if? Yeah, but what if?”
As I laid out initially, folks, you’re getting ready for bed, you’re upstairs in your bedroom, and it’s later at night, and you hear someone coming into your home. This is not that you’re sitting at the kitchen table, and someone kicks in the front door, and you have to immediately jump into action. At this point, I really don’t want people creeping around the house trying to find this guy.
You’re not going to go clear the house by yourself, right? Um, you know, so yeah, stay in the bedroom, stay wherever you are, or get to the safe space that you’ve planned out. You get to your kids’ room and your gonna defend that position there. And certainly holler out “I know you’re here. I’ve called the police. They’re on their way. I am armed if you come any closer I will shoot you.” That makes it really clear for the guy in the house to understand what’s going on.
But if you decide you’re going to go get this guy out of your house, and you head down the stairs and you start looking around the kitchen and the living room and the dining room, somewhere you’re going to come around the corner and he’s gonna hit you over the head with a lamp or a pipe or stab you. Or, worse yet, you’re gonna hear him rummaging around in the office stealing your computer. And as you head for that door, his accomplice is going to come and attack you from behind, right?
So, I want people to turn on the lights so they can identify the bad guy. We call it a shot in the dark for a reason. I don’t want folks shooting down a darkened hallway. I want a flashlight or lights on in the hallway or something like that. It’s a good policy from a legal standpoint. I think you’re nodding your head; you’re going to say yes?
Tom: Yeah, I mean you introduced a whole new layer of variables. Do you protect the upstairs hallway? I’m presuming your entire family is upstairs, and you’re covering it — the only way — up and down the stairways? Or do you, in effect, get ready to counter-ambush the bad guy?
Do not counter-ambush the bad guy. Both from a tactics perspective, that just sounds like an incredibly bad idea. As well as from a legal perspective, even if you’re in a state with a very strong Castle Doctrine, you’re still introducing some variables by doing that.
I would much rather have a client who’s defending the top of the stairs where all their kids’ bedrooms are, rather than a client who is clearing the house room by room by room and finds the bad guy hiding behind the water heater. Now you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a lot of problems at that point.
My suggestion: guard that top of the stairs, call 911, ideally, your spouse or significant other does so that you don’t have split attention. If your kids are old enough, everybody should have an action plan. Whether it’s sheltering in place or whatever makes the most sense given your house layout, that’s what you’re doing.