Defense of Property Law and Legal Definition
Defense of property is a justification defense by the defendant that s/he should not be held liable because the action was taken in defense of the defendant's premises or personal property. This defense is available, if one harms or threatens another when defending one's property. Many states have laws on this.
The following is an example of a state statute (New Jersey) on Defense of property:
N.J. Stat. § 2C:3-6 . Use of force in defense of premises or personal property
a. Use of force in defense of premises. Subject to the provisions of this section and of section 2C:3-9, the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor is in possession or control of premises or is licensed or privileged to be thereon and he reasonably believes such force necessary to prevent or terminate what he reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by such other person in or upon such premises.
b. Limitations on justifiable use of force in defense of premises.
(1) Request to desist. The use of force is justifiable under this section only if the actor first requests the person against whom such force is used to desist from his interference with the property, unless the actor reasonably believes that:
(a) Such request would be useless;
(b) It would be dangerous to himself or another person to make the request; or
(c) Substantial harm will be done to the physical condition of the property which is sought to be protected before the request can effectively be made.
(2) Exclusion of trespasser. The use of force is not justifiable under this section if the actor knows that the exclusion of the trespasser will expose him to substantial danger of serious bodily harm.
(3) Use of deadly force. The use of deadly force is not justifiable under subsection a. of this section unless the actor reasonably believes that:
(a) The person against whom the force is used is attempting to dispossess him of his dwelling otherwise than under a claim of right to its possession; or
(b) The person against whom the force is used is attempting to commit or consummate arson, burglary, robbery or other criminal theft or property destruction; except that
(c) Deadly force does not become justifiable under subparagraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection unless the actor reasonably believes that: /
(i) The person against whom it is employed has employed or threatened deadly force against or in the presence of the actor; or
(ii) The use of force other than deadly force to terminate or prevent the commission or the consummation of the crime would expose the actor or another in his presence to substantial danger of bodily harm. An actor within a dwelling shall be presumed to have a reasonable belief in the existence of the danger. The State must rebut this presumption by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
c. Use of force in defense of personal property. Subject to the provisions of subsection d. of this section and of section 2C:3-9, the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor reasonably believes it necessary to prevent what he reasonably believes to be an attempt by such other person to commit theft, criminal mischief or other criminal interference with personal property in his possession or in the possession of another for whose protection he acts.
d. Limitations on justifiable use of force in defense of personal property.
(1) Request to desist and exclusion of trespasser. The limitations of subsection b. (1) and (2) of this section apply to subsection c. of this section.
(2) Use of deadly force. The use of deadly force in defense of personal property is not justified unless justified under another provision of this chapter.