Thursday, October 25, 2012

12 Year Old Girl Shoots Intruder in Her Home

Fox 5 Las Vegas recently reported that a 12 year old Oklahoma girl shot an intruder who forced his way into her home (the full article is available here).  The girl, who was home alone at the time of the incident, telephoned her mother at work claiming that a stranger was knocking at their front door.  After the girl refused to open the door, the man went to the back of the house and kicked in the door-forcing his way into the residence.  The girl's mother told her to get the family gun and hide in the closet, which she did.  According to the article, the girl fired through the closet door as the intruder was turning the nob.  The bullet struck the intruder and sent him running from the residence. Shortly thereafter local police arrived at the scene and arrested 32 year old Stacey Jones.  Mr. Jones was arrested in 2007 for allegedly abducting a 17 year old girl with a history of mental disability. This story provides an excellent example of when the use of deadly force against an intruder is authorized and why the girl in this case should not face charges for shooting the intruder.

Cases like the girl from Oklahoma, and the recent case involving the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin have brought the so-called Florida "Stand Your Ground Law" and others like it to nationwide attention and instigated a debate on the use of deadly force in self defense.  In short, "deadly force" is defined as force that has the capacity of inflicting serious bodily injury or death upon another human being.  Firearms and knives obviously have the capacity to cause serious injury or death, consequently using either of them to defend yourself from an attacker is considered the use of deadly force against another person (attempting to list all the weapons and objects that could be considered capable of deadly force would take up an entire novel). Despite variations among the states, the general rule is that use of deadly force against another is authorized when a person is in "reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm."  Therefore, if a person is in reasonable fear that they (or someone else) is in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured due to the actions of an aggressor who has the capability and the apparent intent to kill or seriously injure, then the individual may use deadly force to stop the aggressor.  This is broadly known as the law of self defense.

To provide a very basic example, if an aggressor is approaching their intended victim with a raised bat stating "I'm going to kill you", a reasonable person would understand this to be a threat that death or great bodily harm was imminent, therefore using deadly force in this situation would almost certainly be appropriate.  However if a person threatens to kill you over a the phone, even if you reasonably believe the person intends to do so, your fear would not give you the right to drive over to their house and shoot them because the threat would not be imminent.  In addition to the fear of imminent death or great bodily harm, some states require that the  victim attempt to retreat, if possible, from the aggressor prior to using deadly force.  Other states, such as Florida and Texas, have no such requirement; these states are informally known as "no retreat" states. 

While the use of deadly force should always be a last resort, Nevada law does provide fairly broad protections for people to defend themselves.  For example, Nevada has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation allowing for both open and concealed carry of firearms.  Although, concealed carrying of firearms in Nevada requires a permit and is subject to a variety of limitations. Additionally, Nevada law does not require a victim to retreat from an unprovoked attack. Further, Nevada statute NRS 41.095  provides for the legal presumption that it is reasonable for a person who is lawfully in their home to use deadly force against an intruder or person attempting to break in.  The state of Oklahoma has a similar law, therefore the girl in our story above was well within her rights to use deadly force against the intruder.  However, in spite of Nevada laws meant to protect the rights of citizens to defend themselves, there are often gray areas where Nevadans can face prosecution for the use of deadly force in self defense.  For example, determining whether a person was in reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm can largely be a matter of opinion.  Further, the decision on whether to pursue charges against a person claiming self defense is often left up to the local District Attorney who can be subject to immense political pressure to do so (as in the Trayvon Martin case).  Persons claiming self defense can also find themselves in serious trouble if it is unclear as to who the initial aggressor was or in situations where the victim knew the aggressor as in domestic violence situations.

Nevadans who use deadly force in self defense should cooperate with law enforcement, but should not answer questions without first seeking the advice of a competent criminal defense attorney.  If you are facing criminal charges relating to the use of deadly force in self defense, or any other criminal charges, you should contact an attorney immediately.  The attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc are ready to defend Nevadans facing criminal charges in either state or federal court. We serve clients from all socioeconomic levels of our community and we will fight the charges with everything in our power to make sure your rights are protected.  Our rates are reasonable and we are willing to negotiate  payment plans if necessary on a case by case basis.  Unlike some law firms, Connor & Connor Pllc is able to accept payment by credit or debit card.  All funds will be placed in our client trust account until earned by the attorney working the case.  If you are facing criminal charges, contact one of the attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc as soon as possible for a consultation.  You may contact the firm at, (702) 430-4614, (702) 749-5992 or visit You may also visit the firm's page on Facebook at!/ConnorConnorPllc.

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