Is it legal to booby-trap your own property?

–And if not, why not?

First of all, let me stress that I’m asking simply from idle curiosity. But I was wondering the other day about attack dogs; they’re trained specifically to inflict potentially fatal damage to intruders, yet they are legal to own (so long as a sign is posted warning of their presence). But what about other lethal means of discouraging unwanted guests? If I cared to, could I protect my suburban home by constructing a “death gauntlet” of bear traps, concealed pits lined with bamboo stakes, spring-loaded guillotines, etc.? What about a tripwired shotgun in the foyer, or a huge stone sphere poised to crush anyone who touches my X-Men comics? If I hung up signs reading, “No Trespassing: Beware of Minefield,” could I then use claymores to keep those pesky neighbor kids off my lawn?

From this site.

Gracias, Q.E.D. Actually, asking if such a trap is illegal was really only half my question–I was pretty sure that it is, though I’d never heard of a specific case. (In fact, I’m a bit surprised to learn that there are apparently states where it isn’t illegal. And which states would these be, then?) I guess I should have been clearer; sorry about that.

Anyway, given that a shotgun trap is illegal because it is indiscriminate, as your link claims, then why isn’t an attack dog considered just as illegal, for exactly the same reason? After all, it’s not as though the dog is going to stop and ask questions, or recognize a policeman’s uniform. So why the legal distinction?

Heh, that’s a good story. What if you put a paint bomb? Then you could just tell the cops to look for a very green person. :slight_smile:

No. People are more important than property. Same reason you can’t shoot someone robbing you. You can only shoot in self defense.

However, jury nulification is not unknown in such cases.

P.S. I am not an attorney but I play one on the Internet.

At least in California, it may be a felony to won a dog trained to kill:

my business law professor said something like…

it varies in state to state…

in texas… property laws are very strict, you can legally shoot someone who is on your property without permission… shoot first ask questions later type thing…

atleast thats what i think he said :slight_smile:

My WAG is you can’t. We have some Texas lawyers around, how about it?

IANAL (best to get this out the way upfront)

Restatement of Torts Sec. 85: “…A possessor of land cannot do indirectly and by a mechanical device that which, were he present, he could not do immediately and in person. Therefore, he cannot gain a privilege to install, for the purpose of protecting his land from intrusions harmless to the lives and limbs of the occupiers or users of it a mechanical device whose only purpose is to inflict death or serious harm upon such as may intrude…”

From Katko v. Briney 183 N.W.2d 657: The fact that the trespasser may be acting in violation of the law does not change the rule.
In addition to civil liabilty, many jurisdictions hold the landowner criminally liable for serious injuries or homicide caused by spring guns and other set devices.
Further, sometimes a dog IS considered the same. In the case of children, for example, they cannot be reasonably expected to read signs that say “Beware of Dog” or other such warnings. Your X-Men comics could be considered an Attractive Nuisance and, thus, you can still be held responsible unless you provide an adequate way to block access to them (other than falling boulders).

I have no idea how close I’ve come to answering your specific quesitons, but this is about the best I’m going to do for tonight.

God, I’d love to trap some boobies. But I don’t seem to be very good at it.

In my city, yes, is illegal, as a guy around the corner actually did this. The fire dept came one day to check for fire safety & they found his property has booby traps on it when they tried to enter it.

If I remember correctly from Torts class, the reason things like dogs and barbed wire are not the same as the spring gun is that they give notice to the trespasser in and of themselves of their danger. (I suppose the WARNING: DOG sign might be required.) The spring gun is a latent danger, which the land owner owes a duty to protect trespassers against.

An interesting question the Restatement raises is what if a rapist breaks into your home with the intent to commit rape, but you aren’t home, and is killed by your spring gun. “Were [you] present” you would have had the right to use deadly force, can the spring gun stand in your shoes?

I don’t think so, IMHO. A spring gun, as previously stated, lacks judgement, and cannot tell an attempted rapist from a curious child, for instance. It is this lack of discrimination that makes a spring gun illegal.

originaly by: Q.E.D.

This is one of thoes slippery slope kind of issues because there are some things that a spring gun could protect that only a criminal would be intrested in.

A tool shed could conceivable be gotten into by children and animals and a spring gun to protect that could have unintended consequences. What about if you rig a spring gun into your wall safe at home to protect your money and valuables? If it is inside of the safe then only people opening the safe would be injured. Presumable the only people opening up a locked safe would be the owner and thieves. I cant see how it could have any unintended consequences in that situation.

The issue, Burner is what force you would be allowed to use if you were there. You do not have a right to use deadly force to protect property like a safe. You do have the right to use deadly force to protect yourself from a rapist.

Q.E.D. I think the restatement is unclear, I think the argument could be made that a spring gun that kills a rapist is justified. (It might still be illegal by statute, but not from the common law)

No? I’m sure the safe owner wouldn’t intend to kill himself, but in that situation, it’s not only possible, but quite likely. Have a bit too much cognac, stumble to the safe to check out your favorite gold watch, and BLAMMO!

Re: Texas laws. I thought I heard that a person could shoot another person, even if the latter is fleeing, to protect his property at night. I seem to remember a repo man was killed when the owner shot him as he was driving away, and the man was not charged with murder. Is this true?

Also: I’m curious about Achernar’s comment. Banks routinely put “paint bombs” in bags when they are robbed. Would it be legal to put paint bombs on your property like land mines? I’m wondering, since paint bombs would not be intended to cause injury.

Perhaps, but all you’ve got lying on your living room floor is a dead body. Can you prove that it was an attempted rapist, rather than a nosy neighbor, or a petty thief who only wanted your silverware? No, you can’t, because you were not present to make that determination before the intruder was killed. Even if the body is identified, and it turns out he had a long history of rape convictions, his intent in this case cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

What if the police obtain a legal search warrant to search your home, discover the safe and open it? You’ve suddenly got a big problem and a dead cop who was just doing his job on your hands.

Another problem with things like tool sheds or whatever is situations where rescue personnel may need to go there to take care of a fire or something like that. Dogs aren’t so much of a threat because you can usually tell they are there and take measures to protect yourself, or if you need to, just disable the dog. Booby traps are difficult because you don’t know they are there (that’s the whole point, of course).

I’m sorry. I keep thinking of a spring-loaded boxing glove. :stuck_out_tongue: