Booby Traps And Criminal Fortification: What You Should Know
You have certain rights to inhabit and enjoy your own property in peace and to defend it against intrusion. However, you don't have the right to turn your private castle into a fort and you can't lay booby traps for would-be intruders. Here's what you should know about booby traps and criminal fortification (before you run afoul of the law):
Criminal fortification is (currently) a crime in only a few states, like Illinois and New Jersey, and the language usually specifically addresses people who have set up barriers that are designed to slow the entrance of law enforcement to places where there are drugs being made, sold, or stored. However, more states are considering adding this crime to the books as an "add-on" crime that can be tacked onto other drug charges.
Why should you worry? Crimes like criminal fortification often carry more weight than the actual drug charges. In Illinois, for example, it's a Class 3 Felony, which can net you up to 5 years in prison. If you happen to be keeping a bag of marijuana in your residence under 30 grams in weight, a first offense is only a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine. That means that the alarm system on your door could cost you more time in prison than the drugs in your possession.
Booby traps that are designed to be triggered by the unknowing actions of their eventual victims are sometimes illegal in certain states and generally ill-advised. So-called "spring guns" that explode on or fire at their targets are often specifically illegal, even if you warn victims in advance that they are entering at their own risk. The law puts a higher value on human life than it does property, so injuring or killing a potential thief when you're in no personal danger is considered a criminal action.
Why are laws like this enforced? It's in the interest of public safety; if you're in an accident or the police are executing a lawful warrant on you, emergency responders coming to save you or law enforcement officers coming to search the place shouldn't have to worry about dangerous traps.
Other types of booby traps may not be specifically illegal because the law often can't keep pace with human ingenuity. For example, if you set a trap that will shock your victim with a small electric current and temporarily disable him or her, there might not be a specific law on the books in your state that makes the action criminal. However, you'll still probably end up in civil court, being sued for the injuries and pain that your victim suffered.
The best course of action, naturally, is to know the laws in your area before you set up your home defenses. However, if you're already in trouble because you took the idea of defending your home a little too far and set a trap or ran up against an "add-on" law that made your home security devices illegal, talk to a criminal defense attorney (such as one from Sam Douglas Young Attorney at Law) as soon as possible about your case.