Hey there folks,
I'm getting really confused here reading through court documents. In trying to understand the legalities of self-defense here in Virginia, I'm getting really lost in the pile.
I know that we cannot defend property with lethal force (Montgomery v. Commonwealth). Brandishing a weapon to defend property is also a no-no (Commonwealth v. Alexander).
My question though is about defending oneself on one's property, in the home especially.
I have to propose a hypothetical case, and I can hear the groaning, "oh, no, not another one." I tried to search the forum for the answer but the results came back with too many hits that were not relevant.
You are in your own home. It is nighttime. All doors and windows are locked. You, your spouse, and kids are all upstairs for bed. Some time later, you hear glass shattering. You arm yourself with your firearm of choice. You huddle your family in the master bedroom. Your spouse calls 9-1-1 while you stand ready, crouched in the doorway. You see an unknown and unwelcome stranger ascending your staircase. You order the intruder to leave immediately. Intruder continues up towards you. You fire, intruder collapses and dies.
Had the intruder been visibly armed, I doubt anyone would question why you shot and killed the intruder. In our hypothetical, let's say that the police determine that the intruder was unarmed but you did not know this at the time of the shooting.
In Cook v. Commonwealth, I see that we "may use only such force as appears to him reasonably necessary to repel the attack". Further, we can see in Commonwealth v. Sands that fear alone is not enough to excuse homicide; there must be an imminent real threat.
There is where my confusion lies. Would shooting the intruder be excessive force, per Cook? We identified an immediate real threat to our life and the lives of our family since we had no idea what this intruder's intentions were, so this should be an excusable homicide.
Could someone help point me in the direction of some case law that either would either a) support the use of deadly force in this situation, or b) not support it. Lots of Google searching has brought up lots of links to Castle Doctrine in other states, but that hardly helps here.
Thanks! Obviously, IANAL!