Generally, a person has a legal right to use reasonable force to prevent the commission of a tort (such as trespass or conversion) against his or her property. Therefore, if a person uses force to prevent the commission of a tort against his or her property and he or she is sued for assault, battery, or another intentional tort, he or she may claim defense of property as a defense to the action. A person is required to make a request to desist before using force to defend his or her property unless such a request would be futile or dangerous.
For example, a defendant owns a farm. A plaintiff comes onto the farm and begins to build a house. The defendant asks the plaintiff to leave, and the plaintiff refuses. The defendant physically removes the plaintiff from the farm. The plaintiff files an action against the defendant for battery. If the defendant used reasonable force in removing the plaintiff from the farm, then the defendant may claim defense of property as a defense to the action.
Another example: A defendant owns a video store. While in the store, a plaintiff takes a video and slips it into his or her coat. The defendant asks the plaintiff to return the video or pay for it. The plaintiff refuses. The defendant physically retrieves the video from the plaintiff’s coat. The plaintiff files a battery action against the defendant. If the defendant used reasonable force to retrieve the video, then he or she may claim defense of property in the action.
A person may use reasonable force to defend his or her property. In defending property, a person may not use force that will cause death or serious bodily injury.
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