Use of Force In Oregon

Self-defense situations vary wildly, but they generally come down to five different scenarios: (1) defense of personal property outside the home, (2) defense of another person, (3) defense of yourself, (4) defense of your home, and (5) defense of yourself and/or your family within your home.

Oregon Use Of Force

Defense of Personal Property Outside the Home

With vary rare exceptions, it typically does not make sense for the average person to use deadly force or even physical force in defense of personal property outside of the home. Think for example about catching someone breaking into your car attempting to steal the stereo, or someone mugging you at knifepoint for $50 out of your wallet or purse. In these situations, it’s probably not worth the risk of getting into a physical altercation with a criminal over such a small amount of property or money. The risk of being killed or at least injured is just too high for it to be worth the reward of retaining the property or money. Furthermore, the very real risk that you will face legal scrutiny– maybe even be charged with a crime or sued– does not make it worth the risk of exercising such force.

Use of Force in Defending Another Person

In a scenario where the average person has an opportunity to act in defense of another person, deadly force or at least physical force. Much of your response in that situation is going to be dictated based on the level of harm the third party or third person is subject to, your relationship with that person, and the willingness on your part to be a “Good Samaritan.” A full discussion of that scenario is beyond the limits of this article, but it is worth considering that on a spectrum or Continuum of legal and physical force, defense of another person who is in fear of personal injury or death, the likelihood that you are legally authorized to act on their behalf, and that you may even want to act on their behalf independent of any legal entanglements, is much greater.

Use of Force in Defending Yourself

Throughout the country, in most jurisdictions, you will be legally authorized to use physical force or even deadly force if you are going to be subject to unlawful physical force or the threat of deadly force personally. The decision of whether or not you should exercise that force is largely going to be up to you. Not to get too philosophical, but there may be very real ethical moral, religious, and practical decisions to be made as to whether or not to exercise authority that you legally have, but independently still may raise questions. As mentioned when talking about defense of a third person, the use of unlawful physical Force against you personally, raises the stakes significantly, and not only are you legally justified to respond to such force but you likely will.

Use of Force in Oregon in Defense of Your Home

The fourth scenario of use of force is very interesting. Jurisdictions are going to vary throughout the country. Here in Oregon, there is no expanded use of force allowed for defense of a structure itself, but rather Oregon’s legal authorization for use of deadly force is actually going to stem from the right to defend a person or a family within a dwelling. Stated another way, in Oregon, and other jurisdictions, you will not be authorized to use deadly force, and you may not even be authorized to use physical force, to defend the actual stick, brick, and mortar of your home or property.

Use of Force in Oregon in Defense of Persons Within Your Home

The 5th and final scenario for use of force has to do with use of force within your dwelling, on a person who you believe has made unlawful entry into your home, for the purposes of committing a crime in your home dash – including but not limited to using physical or deadly force against you to cause you harm. In most jurisdictions throughout the United states, you will be legally authorized to use physical force and perhaps even deadly force to defend yourself from within your home.

But before we get to a discussion of using deadly or physical force against an intruder into your home, we should have a discussion about preventative measures to avoid a scenario such as this in the first place. It stands to reason that no sane person is looking forward to a physical or deadly confrontation in their own home, and most people would hope things never get to that point. Most people would want to do their best to avoid a scenario where an intruder– possibly armed– even makes it into the home.

Alternatives to Using Physical Force in Defense of Persons Within Your Home

A full discussion of all of the things that an individual or family could do to promote safety on their property, and to restrict unlawful entry into their home is beyond the scope of this article. However, to be responsible and also just to be reasonable, it should be mentioned that there are a number of things homeowners can do to prevent the unlawful and unauthorized access into their homes, or at the very least, to persuade any possible criminals from taking the chance of unlawfully entering the home and facing the prospect of physical violence, or even death. To start with the most obvious suggestion, families would be wise to consider how flashy and how showy their property is. Use of blinds, window coverings, and even just common sense to make sure that valuables are not visible from outside the home is probably a best practice for maintaining security. Another thing that families can do, is to post signage on and around their property as to what is private, and what is accessible even for people like delivery drivers or guests. Another thing that people can do to discourage burglaries of their home, is to install a home security system including electronic devices that alert the family as to unauthorized entry, and also security cameras which record both video and audio of attempted unauthorized access. The key to this preventative measure however actually has to do more with announcing to the world that the property is secure, then actually having every later latest electronic gizmo and gadget available for security measures. That is important, to be sure, but even more important than the technology employed is signage advertising to any would be criminals that the property is secure, guarded, and that the burglar ought to pick a different house. Ideally, a homeowner doesn’t want to catch a burglar so much as he or she wants to avoid a burglary in the first place. The way you do that is to not only have a security system, but you let everyone know about it.

Alternatives to Using Deadly Force in Defense of Persons Within Your Home

As with the discussion above about whether or not to use physical force or even deadly force in defense of a third person outside of a residence, the decision of whether or not to use physical force or even deadly force within a home is really up to the person who will be exercising that force. There are many considerations including but not limited to religious, moral and legal decisions. But suffice it to say, in most jurisdictions in the United States, a homeowner is authorized to use deadly force if a third party has committed an unlawful burglary into the premises, and the dwelling is occupied at the time period for more information on this concept, you may want to read up on the castle doctrine and find out whether or not that applies in your jurisdiction, and also look into the concept of what is called “duty to retreat.” speaking strictly as a former prosecutor and current defense attorney, and also a firearm safety instructor, I would not advise anyone to attempt to bargain with, reason with, or negotiate with a home invader. I would typically authorize any family member in that situation to use deadly force, including but not limited to using a firearm, and then to invoke the right to remain silent until speaking to a criminal defense attorney. You have to consider the possibility that if someone has broken into your residence, knowing that is an occupied dwelling, knowing full well in advance that that physical space is likely of extreme importance to you, and also taking into consideration that you’re in a very private setting where you could be the victim of further crimes other than just monetary or property loss (e.g. this is not like being mugged in a crowded public park, where yelling “help” might actually yield a response), the use of deadly force is not only legally authorized in most jurisdictions, but is advisable.

In conclusion, and to be very clear, the use of physical force upon another person raises many issues that are not only legal but are ethical, moral, and religious. Every person ought to think about a worst case scenario in order to hopefully plan in the future for a best case scenario. And a best case scenario with regards to an occupied dwelling, is that any would-be burglar looks at the home and decides that it’s simply not worth the risk to enter.


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