How Far Can You Go to ‘Get Even’ with Porch Pirates?

Porch piracy is as annoying as it is expensive. Some people are so annoyed that they go to great lengths to get even with people who would dare steal packages off their porches. From filling boxes with dog feces to spraying would be thieves with a garden hose, we have seen just about everything at this point. But how far can you go without putting yourself in legal jeopardy?

It is easy to assume that state and federal laws allow you to defend life and property at any cost. Unfortunately, that is not exactly true when it comes to porch piracy. Many states attach a ‘reasonable’ clause to rules allowing property owners to defend themselves and their homes. What constitutes a reasonable defense of property can vary by jurisdiction.

Deadly Force Not Allowed

It stands to reason that state laws forbid the use of deadly force to prevent something as minor as porch piracy. Someone stealing a package from your porch doesn’t represent a threat of serious injury or death, except under special circumstances. For instance, a porch pirate pulling out a weapon upon being discovered by a homeowner is a credible threat to life. But short of something like that, porch piracy does not rise to the level of deadly force.

State prohibitions against the deadly use of force include setting traps for would-be trespassers. The Lindley Law firm in Charlotte, NC cited a case in a 2017 blog involving a property owner who set up a shotgun to fire at the feet of people who tried to enter his empty house. An intruder eventually was injured after being shot in the arm. A court ruled in favor of the intruder, entering a $30,000 judgment against the property owner.

Scaring May Be Allowed

State laws may allow property owners to scare porch pirates as long as their tactics are considered reasonable. For example, arming fake packages with personal alarms that make a lot of noise could do the trick. Hearing a screaming siren upon bending over and picking up a package could cause a porch pirate to drop the box and run.

Unfortunately, there is a gray area here that state laws don’t clearly define. That gray area is personal liability in relation to injuries incurred on a homeowner’s property. If upon hearing the alarm siren, a burglar was frightened enough to fall down the porch steps, any subsequent injuries could result in a lawsuit against the property owner.

Surveillance Is Allowed

We know deadly force is a no-go. Scaring porch pirates is a possibility, but there are always liability risks attached to it. So what’s left? Surveillance. It is definitely okay to install video cameras to keep an eye on your front porch. Video surveillance will deter some porch pirates. Those who persist despite the presence of video surveillance stand a greater chance of getting caught.

Vivint Smart Home, out of Provo, UT recommends standard wireless video cameras installed as part of an integrated home security system. Homeowners can also choose to install video doorbells that give a more close-up view of the porch. Either way, video surveillance is both a deterrent and a source of evidence against criminals.

Porch piracy is one of those crimes that annoys people to no end. Its brazen nature simply offends law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, property owners can only do so much to stop porch piracy and get even with those who perpetrate it. Deadly force is not allowed. Scaring pirates creates liability questions. In the end, surveillance is the safest option property owners have to work with.