Crime is a reality in most countries and South Africa is well known to have some of the worst. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the use of deadly force if there is an intruder on your property. In this article we will discuss when you are allowed to use deadly force during a home invasion.
The general rule to remember is that a court of law will have to find your actions as having been reasonable. Was the force used reasonable and what would a reasonable person have done under similar circumstances are questions which the Court would have to determine ie. were your actions justified.
This test is best described using examples:
1 Imagine you are asleep and you hear glass break a few rooms away. You immediately grab your firearm and a torch in order to investigate the situation. Upon enteringthe lounge you spot an intruder at the other side of the room in the entertainment area stealing your HiFi system. In this situation the thief has not threatened you or your loved ones’ lives. In this situation, if you were to fatally wound the intruder, you could be charged and found guilty for murder due to the fact that the situation had not escalated to a point where deadly force was reasonable.
2. This time you are, as per the previous example, in your room and you hear glass breaking, however, as you enter into your passage and hear someone coming up the stairs you notice the intruder who spots you and starts charging towards you wielding a weapon, be it a knife or an object such as a crowbar. Your safety is clearly under threat in this situation and it seems quite clear in this case that the intruder isn’t just after your hifi , but rather intends inflicting harm on you or your family. In this situation you and your families’ well being is under threat and deadly force should be seen as a reasonable reaction in order to protect the lives of you and the rest of the occupants in the house.
It’s important to remember that every case is different and will be analyzed separately. If nobody’s life is in danger then there is no reason to take someone else’s life. If you did, this would be seen as unreasonable action. Regardless of the value of property being stolen, when a suspect is fleeing and your life or the life of another is not under threat, deadly force would not be reasonable.
One will often read articles in the media about a homeowner who fatally wounded an intruder and a murder docket is subsequently opened. This is a necessity but often a formality and usually the docket will be closed soon after unless there is reason to believe your actions were unreasonable.