Law dopers What will I be charged with?

Let’s say hypothetically there is a rash of burglaries in my neighborhood. Let’s also say that I find out it’s a bunch of coke heads trying to pawn stuff for drugs. So I put drain cleaner (or an appropriate highly poisonous chemical that looks like cocaine) in small plastic bags so that it looks like my drug stash. They break into my house and one of the guys takes it and dies from snorting the stuff. What would I be charged with? Murder? Anything?
I’m not going to do this but it may play a part in an up coming RPG of mine.

Thanks for the use of your huge brains. :slight_smile:

I am not a lawyer, but if you deny you put drain cleaner in the plastic bags for the expressed purpose of killing drug dealers, you might get away with involuntary manslaughter and probation. It wold be up to the state’s DA whether to press charges or not.

On the other hand, if the prosecutor was able to convince a jury that you intended to knowingly kill someone, you could be convicted of first degree murder. The likely charge would be somewhere in between involuntary manslaughter (you accidently left a lethal substance in your home) and first degree murder (you intended to kill with premeditation). There would be other factors not mentioned in your post.

It depends on the state. My home state of Louisiana has very liberal (if that is the right word) laws on protecting property. Normally that just gives you the right to shoot intruders in protection of self, home, and property but it is unlikely that you would be charged with anything in such a scenario. In other states, the charges could range up to murder or manslaughter. Different states have very different views on this type of thing.

I doubt very highly that Louisiana or any state, regardless of how much it valued the right to protect one’s property, would excuse the planting of poison to protect one’s stash of illegal drugs. Even if some insane state legislature did go against its strong public policy of discouraging illegal drug use by allowing otherwise unlawful force to protect one’s stash, I refuse to believe that any such allowance of force would extend to the scenario described in the OP. The OP is not describing a case in which he stumbles across a home invasion in progress and, to protect his precious drugs, he shoots the burglars. The OP is describing something more akin to a spring gun or man-trap, with poisoned dope substituting for the spring-loaded weapon.

Thank you all for the replies.

The lines that I’m thinking along are that there really are no drugs. Just plastic bags full of draino hidden in a drawer that could look like hidden drugs. If said perp mistakes these as drugs (which I admit I made it easy to do) Could I still be charged with murder. I know that booby traps and the like are illegal but this seems different.

IANAL, but I agree that rights to protect illegal property are probably limited.

But I don’t interpret the OP as actually having a drug stash.

Rather, I believe he’s proposing putting the drane cleaner in small plastic bags so that a burglar would think it’s a stash.

The OP beat me to it!

If the prosecutor could show that you knew of the break-ins and of the type of contraband the burglars took, you could be charged with reckless homicide.

Say I have a canister of Comet. I drop the canister of Comet and it falls against the corner of the table, tearing a hole in the container.

Being the thrifty soul that I am, I pour my remaining Comet into plastic bags and put them under my kitchen sink.

But then…oh no! My house is robbed! Someone saw my Comet and thought it was cocaine! They stole it, snorted it, and died.

How could I be charged with anything?

You don’t have enough plausible deniability here. The only reasonable explanation for your action was that you intended to confuse and kill drug dealers/users. If you can come up with a better rationale (i.e., if drain cleaner was a well-known homemade moth-repellent, and you were just preparing sachets for your drawers and closets…), then you’ve got a chance. As your defense attorney, I’d be wondering, “What reason will we give the jury for this? How do we convince them that you, in fact, did NOT intend to mislead and poison drug dealers/users?”

Your hypo is different than the original post. The original hypo has intent. If the prosecutor can find evidence of intent, that’s where you’re in trouble.

I agree that my scenario doesn’t cover the OP 100% but the question is what someone will be charged with and not what is simply against the law. In the rural town that I grew up in, I can’t see getting charged with anything. There are lots of places in the U.S. where the DA stretches the laws to fit the desired outcome or at least the jury just nullifies the whole thing. You can ask the owner of the grocery store I worked in during high school. He came home to find his wife in passionate throes with another many. He killed the man with a shotgun and was never charged because a good lawyer convinced the DA that the case fit a defense of home law. My point is that different jurisdictions may treat this very differently and you can’t be sure what someone will be charged with. It is going to be hard for people to get worked up about someone that dies during a drug robbery especially since the perpetrator is likely to take the whole bag and no one will ever know that it came from your house for sure.

There you go. That’s better. Of course, the odds of someone finding a white powder under a kitchen sink among the other cleaning supplies and thinking it’s cocaine/heroin is probably much lower.

Who says it’s your baggie filled with Drano, anyways?
Wear gloves when handling it.

I’m on the jury. Causing drug addicted burglars to drop dead on the street is a serious crime. Littering. Fifty dollar fine.

It sort of depends on how it all sorted itself out.

As a practical matter, nobody’s going to care much how a junky got ahold of some bad drugs. They’re probably not going to ask a lot questions, even if there’s anybody left to ask - and even if they ask, it’s not likely any of the (surviving) burglars are going to cop to the burglary, which is a pretty serious crime itself.

Assuming they somehow found out where the bad dope came from, they’d still need to prove intent. It’s not a crime to take drain-o out of its original container, and you’re not obligated to label everything in your home for the safety of burglars.

The homeowner would pretty much have to cop to the whole thing in order to get himself arrested.

You’re free to use burglar alarms, bars, and locks to prevent theft, but you’re not supposed to use deadly force to protect property.

Having said that, a few years ago there was a guy who shot a burglar in the back, while he was running away. He went to trial, and he was acquitted. Moral of the story: people - including jurors - don’t like burglars much.

The big difference between shooting someone and rigging a trap for them is that you can argue self-defense. Defense of property alone is much more difficult to use as a reason for deadly force. You might get away with it, but if you’re standing there defending yourself (and your property at the same time), you’ve got a pretty strong case for why you decided to shoot, stab, etc.

I really appreciate everyone’s input.

In my head the whole thing plays out like this…

Several of my neighbors houses in the surrounding blocks are broken into and high price easily pawnable items are stolen. I am told that in at least one of the houses they opened bedroom drawers and stole a bag of pot. Worried that this is going to go on until they stumble upon someone still at home and someone gets hurt I decide to devise a plan. I hide in the back of a drawer in my bedroom 2 or 3 small baggies of Drano. I put some books in front of them and make sure it’s the only drawer locked in my room.

Several days later I come home to find the police around my house. Seems my house was being victimized and one of the bad guys found my “stash” and tried it on the spot. He never made it out of the yard. Someone called an ambulance, yada yada yada.

I understand that there is know way to know exactly what will happen to me. I could get a sympathetic DA (please let it be Cookeze, I can deal with a fifty buck fine :stuck_out_tongue: ) or I could get a death sentence cause ADA Carver is going for office next year. My question, I guess, is what is the most likely way this will play out? Will I be arrested on the spot? Will the town’s people cheer as I’m led to the gallows? Will I get a littering fine?

On the other hand, if Lazarus Long ever ends up in this universe for any length of time, you’ve set yourself up as defendant in a totally indefensible plagiarism suit. :wink:

That being unlikely, my kudos on a perfect adaptation of one of his adages in the precise right situation for it!

I believe it is a crime in many area’s to remove the labeling from any hazardous substance. If you transfer containers the labeling must transfer as well.