About the legality of poisoned donuts.

I know there are laws against booby traps, but those are designed to protect rescue workers, right?

Is it legal to have poisoned treats around your house? Let’s assume the poison itself is legal. The intention being that the thief will want a snack and die.

I am not asking about the wisdom of it (I think it’s very stupid and I know plenty of people who had poisoned bottles of rum in the trunks of their cars), just the legality. I also know it will vary by location. I just want a general feel for it (and interesting stories about the outliers).

Offhand, without checking case law, I’m going to say illegal. My speculation is that even if it worked as planned, the law would consider poisoning a burglar an unreasonable response to a break-in. You’re generally only allowed to use deadly force to defend a person not property.

Man traps arent illegal because of safety workers, theyre illegal for a variety of reasons, not the least being inappropriate response to a crime and creating a hazard.

You would at least be liable for the death of the burgler if you purposely left out poison food, the same way you would be if you did that with food left at work for a thieving co-worker. You could expect a charge of at least 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. Probably murder as your intent was to poison someone to death. You cant argue it was an accident nor it was done at the heat of the moment. Planning and intent are very important in criminal cases.

Lastly, the event of a crime doesnt suddenly make you immune from all laws and responsibility. You cant shoot someone going through a red light or stealing a car.

In Canada there is a law: “administering a noxious substance” . A dumbass on a job site where I was working was thusly charged for tampering with some of his own beer that he thought his co-worker was helping himself to (the tampered bottles had a whack of clear dish washing detergent in it).

His co-worker (a dim bulb in his own right) did steal some beer out of his truck and started yarfing. Dumbass wouldn’t say what he’d done to taint the beer, Dimbulb was taken to the hospital and Dumbass was charged with some kind of assault and administering a noxious substance.

ETA: I don’t know what the final outcome was. I don’t believe Dumbass went to jail or anything, so I’ve no idea how the “prank” was finally dealt with in court.

I had a co-worker from a retail esablishment that was tired of a person (or people) eating his food that he brought to work with him. He made a batch of the infamous ex-lax brownies and left them in a container on the breakroom counter with a label marked “do not eat, these are mine - Bob S.”
Sure enough, he came back after the lunch hour to find 3/4 of them gone.
Nobody admitted to taking them or complained so he never got in trouble for bringing them. And people did stop eating his food.

Please to elaborate on this?

If the prosecution can convince 12 people you intended to commit a crime they can convict you.

If your defense can convince them you did not intend to commit a crime your free to go.

If I were one of those 12 people I’d likely argue for your conviction unless you can come up with a believable excuse for having poisoned food around. I feel if you keep poison food in your home the obvious reason would be to harm someone. While I don’t have much compassion for burglars I have even less for someone who intends to kill another human being.

I don’t think those situations are analogous. The coworker has legal access to the same building and facilities that you do, and every legal right to be there. I would argue that it is reasonably foreseeable that a coworker might eat food left in the fridge; it happens all the time.

The burglar has no legal right to be in your home, much less help himself to your food. Arguably, it is not foreseeable that a burglar would break in and eat the Donut Of Death. Of course, on the other hand the homeowner’s action itself argues in favor of foreseeability: if the homeowner had not foreseen the burglary and considered it possible, if not likely, he or she would not have left out the DoD. But the owner could say he or she did it just on the off-chance the burglar would come, not because he or she really thought the burglar would.

I also don’t think it’s analogous to man traps, which are intended to either injure/kill the intruder through active means (the classic cocked gun tied to the door, set to fire when the door opens) or by passive means that do not require the burglar’s active participation (falling into a pit). Nothing compels the burglar to eat the DoD just because it’s sitting there; it’s not as if the homeowner has arranged for it to be fired into his mouth. So to me it’s more analogous to a trap door activated by a rope: the burglar must not only position himself over the trap door (by breaking into the house) but also actively, himself, pull the rope, which nothing compels him to do.

While you are correct that planning and intent are very important in criminal cases, in most U.S. jurisdictions a charge of attempt also requires that the defendant take some substantial step towards the commission of the crime. In this hypothetical, the homeowner has done nothing more than leave out and available the means by which the burglar can harm himself if he chooses. (And while the self-harm would not be knowing, consumption of the donut would have to be.) I have trouble seeing that as a substantial enough step to support a charge of attempted murder.

The way the cops explained it when they talked to me and my co-workers (as witnesses) about Dumbass and Dimbulb, the fact that the beer was tampered with shows malicious intent to do harm as Dumbass was aware of the likelihood that Dimbulb would come to harm.

For the record, these guys were NOT part of our work crew. We were building a fake store front for a film set, and they were a bunch of goofballs hired to do some interior demolition. They were drinking on the job and violating all sorts of basic safety rules.

And Dimbulb’s puking was actually pretty scary because it was super-foamy and his was starting to aspirate.

I looked up the phrase “administering a noxious substance” on Google and it looks like the UK and Australia have similar laws, although all links point to adding bad stuff to other people’s food, rather than booby trapping your own expecting someone to steal it.

How would my habenero doughnuts of (almost) death fit into this equation?

I was wondering the same thing. Who keeps poisoned bottles of rum in the car trunk?

Perhaps the owner could say that he has a really nasty rat or roach problem, and that the rats/roaches looooove them donuts. Not that I’m advocating any such strategy.

This question is inspired by The Simpsons, isn’t it?

If it’s reasonably foreseeable that someone might eat it, then you have proximate cause.

Not only might it be a crime, depending on your jurisdiction, but it might also be a tort – attractive hazard.

It’s not a tort. It’s a donut!

So, would a poisoned torte give rise to tort liability? Or torte liability?

Henceforth, they just licked it.

Yes, I know. I already alluded to the foreseeability issue. But this isn’t civil law, it’s criminal law. You also have to have a substantial step taken in furtherance of the crime. Is leaving food out, without more, enough? I’d argue probably not.

Nah, it’s prolly not a tort. The burglar is not an invitee or a licensee, he is a trespasser. The homeowner’s duty to an adult criminal trespasser is extremely limited and basically boils down to not using unreasonable force in defense of property. At the common law, there is no duty to protect adult trespassers from attractive hazards or nuisances. Not to mention that someone else’s donut hardly rises to the level of an attractive. Unless it’s the Irresistible Donut of Death.

What kind of skewed priorities would you have to have to think that burglars and car theives should get the death sentence?

I had my house broken into earlier this year. After dealing with replacing the stolen property, repairing the damage and the sleep-less nights of me and my family as far as I’m concerned it’s to good for them. I was praying to get put on a jury when I got the notice. Two months later and the cops still have no suspects.