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Can PIs Trespass on Commercial Property? (And Similar Questions)

Posted on June 1, 2023 by El Dorado

Trespassing rules are fairly clear when it comes to private property, and most PIs understand that they’re likely breaking the law if they sneak around a home or jump a fence. But commercial privacy laws can feel blurry. Is it illegal to go where customers go in a business and surveil them? Can you trespass in a lobby or parking lot? Does it matter who owns the space?

Let’s clear up some of the questions about commercial trespassing, what to avoid, and tips on staying within the law.

Businesses Can Be Open to the Public

While privacy and trespassing laws may vary by state, as a general rule there are two types of businesses. One type offers public accommodations, which means they’re open to the public so that potential customers can walk onto their property and explore their offerings. We see this all the time for businesses like restaurants, malls, theaters, hotels, and so on. In these cases, PIs can legally go where other customers can go, as long as they don’t break the law by trying to steal information, etc.

Even for public-facing businesses, there are areas of the businesses that are typically off-limits to the public. A common example is the kitchen in a restaurant – customers aren’t allowed to just walk into the kitchen in most situations. If a private investigator tries to go into an area where the public isn’t allowed, they could be guilty of trespassing, and this may lead to charges.

Some Businesses Aren’t Open to the Public at All

Other types of businesses are not open to the public, and people cannot just wander in without running into trouble. Most offices, for example, may have a small reception area but the majority of the offices are closed to the public unless they are specifically invited. There may also be studios that are hard at work on a project and are closed to the public and, indeed, very protective of their proprietary information.

In situations like these, entering the business property at all can be an act of trespassing, and may be dealt with accordingly. If you want access to company grounds like these, you’ll need to get consent from the owner of the business or someone in a similar position of authority.

Businesses Can Order PIs Off Their Property

Businesses have their limits, and they also have the right to not only refuse service in many cases, but also to order people off their property. Here is a Nationwide and Insight Service lawsuit that includes a case where a private investigator was charged for entering a dentist’s office under false pretenses. When the PI refused to leave, trespassing was also added to the claim.

But false pretenses aren’t the only thing that PIs need to consider. They may risk getting kicked out for different kinds of behavior. A frequent example is trying to interview other customers or staff, or similar activities that can disrupt people and drive away potential business. In this case, the business has the right to refuse entry, and trespassing charges often have an “interfere with business” definition that makes them applicable here.

Public Entry Doesn’t Apply During Off Hours

It’s common sense but needs to be mentioned. Just because the public is allowed inside a shop to browse during daylight hours does not mean it’s alright to walk into the same store when it’s closed. This isn’t just trespassing; it could also lead to burglary charges if a private investigator tries it on their own. The same is true of trying to stay on the premises as the business is closing – courts aren’t impressed by this trick.

Trespassing Can Lead to Many Kinds of Consequences

Trespassing laws not only vary by state but can also vary by degree. Many cases of casual trespassing count as infractions, which usually result in a small fine. More serious criminal trespass can be counted as a misdemeanor, and if trespassing occurred alongside other crimes, it may even be a felony.

Trespassing can also be cited in lawsuits, as seen in the example above. Here, the goal isn’t to prove criminal charges, but to show a civil court that the PI was acting illegally, and that the business deserves payment for damages caused, like loss of business.

If You’re Working for an Employer, Get Written Permission

Companies hire private investigators for many reasons. Often, PIs need access to company devices, security footage, and the ability to interview employees. That often means needing to work on company property. To avoid any issues, PIs should ask for written permission to be on company grounds. This can save a lot of time and ensures that PIs obey the law.


It’s usually easy to avoid trespassing if you put yourself in the position of the business and consider what they would allow or not allow for the average customer. Businesses with public areas can be places where PIs can gather information, observe people, and work on leads. However, the non-public places in businesses are still off-limits, and businesses have the ability to show a PI the door and charge them with trespassing if they don’t leave. If this presents a problem, work on getting permission for a specific interview or search before arriving at the business.

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

Security Guards and Civil Suits: Here’s How These Common Lawsuits Work

Posted on June 15, 2023 by El Dorado

Civil suits – and their associated court processes – are a way to file a legal complaint against another party, holding them liable for something they did. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they broke a law, but a civil lawsuit attempts to show that the other party was at fault and owes something, often a fine or payment for damages. These kinds of lawsuits are common in cases involving injuries, property damage, defamation, and similar problems.

All those qualities can make civil suits a particularly common encounter for security guard companies. If you face a lawsuit in civil court based on what one of your security guards did, here are a few points well worth knowing.

Some Guard Actions Are Far More Likely to Lead to Civil Suits

When do people file civil suits against security guard firms? Anyone can file a civil suit if they’re willing to spend the time and money to do it. But certain incidents lead to a much higher risk of civil lawsuits than others, especially in tense situations involving angry people. Common types of civil suits against security guards include:

  • Negligence: These are types of personal injury lawsuits that claim a guard caused injury. That could be because of carelessness in something they did, like restraining someone or throwing someone to the ground while moving. Or a person may claim that a guard was hired to protect them but didn’t fulfill their duties, resulting in injury.
  • Assault and battery: This type of civil suit alleges injury from the direct actions of a security. If guards put someone in a chokehold or slammed them against a wall, for example, this could lead to a civil suit regarding injuries, especially if a hold was against a state’s guidelines for security guard licensing.
  • False imprisonment or arrest: If a security guard contains a person in a specific space – like sending them to a back room to “cool down” – then they could be open to a lawsuit for false imprisonment, an area the law tends to take seriously. Similarly, if they attempt to arrest someone the same way a police officer would, it could lead to a lawsuit for false arrest.
  • Defamation: Suits for defamation aren’t quite as common, but in some cases, people may claim that their reputation was harmed by being detained by a security guard in public.

Keep in mind, people may also pursue civil suits alongside criminal charges, which can happen with serious incidents like sexual assault or wrongful death.

Security Firms Can Face Vicarious Liability

Security firms may wonder if they can be targeted in a civil lawsuit if they aren’t responsible for the damage or injuries mentioned in the suit. What if the firm has regulations specifically prohibiting things that occurred?

In most cases, security firms do face vicarious liability for the actions of their security guards. That means they can be fairly targeted in a civil suit and may face resulting payments or fees. This type of liability happens because security firms are expected to properly vet and train security guards, and because guards are assumed to be representing their company to an extent.

Evidence, Such as Camera Footage, Can Prove Reasonable Acts

If a civil suit goes to court, firms can use evidence to argue that everything their security guard did was a reasonable act and that the claims mentioned above don’t apply. Camera footage of incidents in areas like retail stores is especially important in these cases, which is one reason guards and security cams make such an effective pairing.

Small Claims Cases Will Limit Maximum Amounts People Can Sue For

Small claims are a type of civil court for lawsuits under a certain amount. Small claims are common for civil suits where it’s difficult to prove any illegal act occurred, but claimants still believe they are owed money for damages. The limits on small claims vary greatly between states: California sets its own at $5,000 for businesses, while Texas small claims top out at $20,000 for people or businesses.

Settling is An Option for Civil Suits

As with many other lawsuits, settling for a specific sum of money and/or other actions is a possibility for civil suits, and a common way to resolve them. Security firms need to weigh how much it would cost to argue the suit in court, how much their liability insurance would pay for, and how much they may end up being ordered to pay. If the total costs are much higher than the potential settlement, it may be worthwhile to sue.

If a firm believes they were entirely in the right, it will still need to hire an attorney and provide evidence. An attorney can represent the firm and let the claimant’s attorney know what kind of evidence they have to present in court in an effort to encourage the claimant to withdraw the suit instead of asking for a settlement.


Civil suits can be time-consuming, costly, and result from all kinds of security guard incidents. That’s why it’s so important for firms of all sizes to have the right kind of security guard liability insurance, and practice good documentation so they have sources of evidence if they ever need to go to court.

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

When Security Guards Should NOT Draw a Firearm

Posted on October 18, 2022 by El Dorado

In the past, we’ve discussed the situations and events where an armed security guard should draw a firearm, and how to reduce any potential liability risks that come with this decision. Today, we wanted to focus on the other side of the coin – scenarios when a security guard should not draw their firearm. In these cases, adding a deadly weapon to the situation will create unnecessary danger and pose liability issues for the security firm. Let’s take a closer look.

When No One Else Has Drawn a Firearm with Intent to Do Harm

This is one rule that can make firearm decisions easier for all armed guards: If someone else present hasn’t drawn a firearm of their own with the intent to do harm, the security guard should not draw their own firearm. If someone has a gun and it stays holstered, so should the security guard’s firearm. This is one of the most direct ways to avoid loss of life and ensuing liability issues.

Once someone else has drawn with the intent to harm, this rule no longer applies. Last year, for example, we saw many events where security guards were shot and killed over COVID mask requirements. These are situations where someone with hostile intent has already drawn a deadly weapon, which drastically changes the scenario and allows for a wider range of reactions to protect both the guards themselves and nearby customers or bystanders.

When There Is No Reasonable Threat to Life

Here, things become more reliant on a security guard’s discretion and specific events. When in doubt, a security guard should always rely on nonlethal means to deal with a threat – attacks, brawls, and people with the intent to do harm can usually be safely stopped with mace, a taser, or other tools in a security guard’s kit. There are cases where someone with a weapon – not a firearm – poses such a significant danger that the security guard should draw their firearm for protection, but these tend to be few and far between. Guards should always default to nonlethal means.

Sometimes training will use “distance” as a method to judge a threat when someone is wielding a weapon. For example, a person with a knife is more of a threat at six feet than they are at thirty feet. In general, we do not advise using this criterion as a way to decide whether or not to draw a firearm. Distance can be an unpredictable measure and drawing or aiming a firearm is not inherently faster or more of a deterrent than drawing and aiming a can of mace or other nonlethal methods of removing the threat.

When Law Enforcement is On the Way

This may seem a little counter-intuitive – after all, if a situation has become dangerous enough to contact law enforcement, a guard may think it is also dangerous enough to draw their firearm. There are two important reasons that’s not the case.

First, law enforcement can be called for many reasons, not just in extreme cases like the presence of an active shooter. Often, police are called after a situation has been resolved with nonlethal means to handle the legal ramifications. So, law enforcement on the way doesn’t indicate that much about threat level.

Second, it’s unwise to have a firearm drawn when law enforcement shows up. Police are working to quickly assess risk themselves and may respond negatively to anyone who has a firearm out, without waiting to find out who may be a security guard and who isn’t. This can create many additional risks for the security guard and should always be avoided.

When No One is Present

This is an important reminder that property damage or property loss is not cause to draw a firearm, and in fact it can be illegal to do so in some states. A strange noise or a tripped alarm is no reason to draw a weapon while investigating. The belief that a threat is present is not the same thing as evidence of a direct threat to someone’s life. This is an important tip for security guards on patrol, especially at night when visibility may be poor. Sometimes there are technical allowances for the theft of dangerous substances or weapons, but those exceptions will be on a case-by-case basis and typically involve directly encountering a thief.

Note that keeping firearms holstered during investigations also lowers risk for other security guards who are also on patrol. Past incidents have seen security guards shoot at each other out of confusion when firearms didn’t need to be drawn in the first place. Caution is always a good policy in these circumstances.


As always, remember to keep all armed security guards fully licensed for their firearms, with updated and frequent training. Remember that some clients may specifically request guards without firearms for their events or jobs and be ready to meet those requests. Always check your state’s specific rules for armed security guards and the type of training they are required to have, as well as proper procedures for maintaining and storing firearms for your security firm.

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

The Most Common Reasons Alarm Installers are Sued

Posted on July 8, 2022 by El Dorado

Alarm systems are an integral part of home and business safety: That also means they are more likely to be subject to liability issues when something goes wrong. Alarm installers face their share of lawsuits, too. Installation companies should always be aware of the risks and how to mitigate them, but it’s also a good idea to understand where lawsuits are coming from. Installers can sometimes be named in a lawsuit even if they had little to do with the situation. Here are the most common examples, and what to watch for!

Negligence In Contracts or Alarm Installation

These lawsuits claim that alarm installers were negligent in some way that led to specific kinds of damages. Sometimes, this is related to contracts – here’s a case where an alarm installer was found at fault because they waited on a signed contract and security deposit when doing work for an old friend (always get a signed contract before beginning work). Other lawsuits may claim that an alarm system was installed improperly so that it couldn’t do its job properly.

This is also a tricky area where installers can get roped into broader lawsuits. For example, if someone broke into a home and stole items while causing damage, the owner may sue both the alarm monitoring company and the alarm installer – they have an incentive to cast as wide a net as possible. This is one reason that thorough paperwork and quality installation work are important for every installer.

Misrepresenting What Alarm Systems Can Do

In these cases, installers may have made claims that were untrue regarding what the alarm system is capable of. Maybe they claimed an immediate response from a monitoring company when there was actually a delay – or in some cases, claimed professional monitoring when the service did not exist. Lawsuits may also claim that installers misrepresented what alarm sensors could do, or what the system could protect against.

Alarms That Don’t Function Because of Faulty Installation

This is a straightforward problem: Alarm systems were installed improperly and did not work, leading to a lawsuit. The system may not have been wired correctly in some cases, or devices may not have been properly paired with the security hub. If improper installation led to a fire or break-in that could have otherwise been prevented, that presents a serious liability issue for the installer. This is another reason it’s important to vet your employees!

Not Repairing or Replacing Broken Systems

This can be a gray area, but lawsuits have been settled for millions of dollars over it in the past. In our linked example, a hotel clerk tried to use a panic button that was part of the building’s security system, but it didn’t work. The alarm installation company was likely in a contract to provide maintenance services and had not repaired the system appropriately. Any type of ongoing maintenance, from replacing the batteries in security devices to replacing faulty system components, should be treated seriously. Repairs should be made quickly and appropriately for the system.

Keep in mind that some previous clients may also be angry if parts of their systems are aged out, as we saw when 3G alarm connections started losing service. While this may not be the fault of the installer, alarm companies can be easy targets when system features are lost.

Deceptive Sales Lawsuits

We discuss this elsewhere in more depth, but it’s a good idea to avoid the possibility of a deceptive sale lawsuit. This a broad category of lawsuits over fraudulent business practices that seek to get a sale by lying to potential customers or hiding fees. Sometimes even well-meaning installers can run into problems here if they practice door-to-door sales, have tricky “free” product offers, or represent themselves as employees of a particular security brand when they aren’t. Fortunately, this is also an easy type of lawsuit to prevent with straightforward and honest business practices.

Repeated False Alarms

False alarms can cause disruptions and annoyance, as well as leading to increasing fines from the city if law enforcement is contacted. Some owners may sue installation companies for improper placement or faulty installation leading to false alarms. This is typically difficult to prove, but it remains one of the more common types of alarm installation lawsuits.

Injury or Damage During a Response

This is another case where installers may get involved in a broader lawsuit that’s targeting as many entities as possible. In these cases, the monitoring system worked as intended and personnel were dispatched to the location. However, the incident led to injury or damage, which resulted in a lawsuit. As long as the alarm system performed as expected, installers may not have much to fear from these lawsuits.

Final Notes

If you’re concerned about your installation company facing a lawsuit, we have targeted coverage to help cover these situations. Additional coverage is available depending on the industries you work in and what specific kinds of lawsuits you may face. As usual, the best defense is being prepared and making sure both you and your clients are well-informed. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on local regulations and building codes so you can make sure you’re avoiding liability issues wherever possible.

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

How to Recognize Scams Targeting Older Adults

Financial fraud and scams targeting older adults are on the rise. Preventing these fraud schemes starts with knowing how they work and what to look out for.

Posted on May 16, 2022 by Wells Fargo | Written by Eric Best

The woman on the screen said she lived in Poland, worked for the United Nations, and had just received a huge inheritance, but she was having issues with her bank. She needed to move the money into the account of a man she was romantically involved with online. But none of this was true. She was a scammer targeting a customer’s bank account. Luckily, a Wells Fargo employee reached out to educate the man about such financial scams before he lost any money.

These fraud attempts targeting older Americans are on the rise because perpetrators know they can catch isolated or unaware older adults and other customers who may get caught up in the moment and not spot the red flags.

“With these scams, there’s a combination of pulling heartstrings, danger, and urgency. Everything operates in extremes when it comes to fraud,” said Andy Collins, a principal business consultant with Wells Fargo’s Consumer and Small Business Banking’s Fraud & Claims Management department. “The bad guys try to find that vulnerable individual who will send money.”

But when it comes to preventing scams, knowledge is power. Staying on top of the latest fraud schemes is one of the best ways of avoiding losing money to them.

“In my research, I discovered that when a consumer has existing knowledge about a particular scam, they are 60-80% less likely to respond when they are targeted,” says Dr. Marti DeLiema, a gerontology consultant with Wells Fargo’s Aging Client Services team and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work.

Here are three common financial scams targeting older adults and how they work.

Tech imposters

Countless customers rely on tech support to use their latest gadgets, but scammers often pose as helpful customer service experts with knowledge of an unknown or nonexistent problem to gain access to sensitive information.

That’s one reason why this is the most reported scam, with more than 13,900 cases reported to the FBI in 2021 alone, according to the 2021 FBI Elder Fraud Report.

This scam may involve calls from organized criminal call centers, known as “fraud farms,” or businesses that employ fraudsters to dial up consumers with the intent of launching scam attacks, sometimes from thousands of miles away.

“This is concerning and speaks to an underlying increase in the prevalence of technology-facilitated scams, the majority of which originate from overseas and target North American consumers,” DeLiema said.

Romance con artists

The same technology that we use to connect with romantic partners can also connect us with scammers. Romance fraudsters often appear exactly like typical social and dating site users, but instead of being interested in you, they’re only in it for your money. 

With the rise of online dating and social applications, these scams are becoming surprisingly frequent, and they’re often the most severe. Romance and family member imposter scams led to more than $432 million in losses in 2021, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. One in three people have known somebody who has fallen for one, according to a 2022 Wells Fargo survey.

The same survey indicated that older men may be disproportionately vulnerable, as they report being more willing to engage in risky behaviors around dating. For example, about three in four men age 65 and older say they wouldn’t check someone’s background, compared to 39% of women.

Family and friend imposter scams

Other scammers are leveraging the close ties between older customers and their families to get them to send money. These scams involve fraudsters acting as grandchildren or other loved ones who need money quickly to get out of a crisis.

While they may have collected some personal information to make these stories believable, scammers depend on their target not thinking through the situation.

“Scammers rely heavily on a victim being secretive about money movement or providing false information about the reasons for a transaction. The fraud quickly falls apart when you and your family fully disclose the financial request,” said Ron Long, head of Aging Client Services at Wells Fargo.

This and the other scams aren’t unique to older adults, but older customers are more often targeted by criminals because they’re perceived as more vulnerable and less likely to report fraud. They may also face age-related declines in financial decision-making, social isolation, or disability that can make them more at risk.

“Fraud criminals know how to deceive a person by making them feel special and important,” DeLiema said. “When we don’t have a strong sense of purpose to begin with, those messages from scammers are more persuasive.”

3 tips for thwarting scams

1. Keep an open dialogue

Anyone who is unsure if they’ve been targeted by a scam should talk about it with a trusted family member or loved one. Often, a discussion will make it evident that the fraudster’s logic or story doesn’t make sense.

But it also pays to discuss fraud before it happens. Families should share information about such schemes.

“One of the key things we find that can frustrate scammers is a family that has talked about the threat of financial fraud,” Long said. “For example, a family password is a perfect defense against scammers posing as a grandchild or other family member.”

2. Get another review of your finances

Giving a trusted family member view-only access to a bank account or duplicate bank statements is one way financial institutions and their customers can work together to prevent scams.

“This way you can have a second set of eyes looking for potentially concerning financial activity,” Long said.

Look out for common signs of scams, including unusual financial activity, family mentioning unknown friends or contacts, and unforeseen changes to bank accounts or estate plans.

3. Stay informed about the latest scams

Scam prevention starts with learning what to look out for.

With a little education, you and your loved ones will be ready to hang up the phone, delete the email, or simply move on when a scammer reaches out with their phony emergency, romantic story, or tech demands.

“That’s why we are focused on helping keep our customers safe and get them out of these scams whenever possible,” Collins said.

Source: Wells Fargo

Back to School 2017: New Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Texas

Posted on

Edwin Walker, Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield:

Well, back-to-school time is almost here, so let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between schools and guns.

I’m Edwin Walker, Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield. As of August 1st, 2017, it will become legal for LTC holders to take their concealed handguns onto the campuses and inside of the buildings of public junior colleges here in the state of Texas. This has been legal to do for universities since August 1st, 2016. This has now been extended to junior colleges.

This means that an LTC holder can carry their concealed handguns into previously prohibited areas at junior colleges, which include the buildings. Now a junior college may limit certain specific areas where a license holder would not be allowed to carry a concealed handgun, but those areas must be posted or the person’s given effective trespass notice under Texas Penal Code 30.06.

Back to School: No open carry on college campuses

It is very important to remember that any handgun carried anywhere on a campus by an LTC holder must be concealed. There is no open carry on college campuses. Also, it must be carried concealed in areas where carrying a handgun by an LTC holder is not prohibited. Those areas include parking lots, sidewalks, walkways, and streets. Remember, carrying on a college campus is a concealed-carry-only area.

It is legal for an LTC holder to have their handgun on the sidewalks, walkways, parking lots, and parking garages of a high school, middle school, or elementary school. Now, is it legal to have a firearm in your automobile while you are picking up or dropping off a child at a high school, middle school, or elementary school? This is a very interesting question because the law would seem to stay that it is, as parking lots are exempted from being premises under the law.

However, the law does contain a provision that a person is not allowed to bring a firearm onto the grounds of a school-sponsored activity. There have been some school districts across the state that have taken the position that the pick-up and drop-off of children is a school-sponsored activity that occurs on the grounds of the school. Therefore, possession of a firearm would be prohibited in these areas.

We disagree with this interpretation, but there have been several school districts that have put it into a written policy that this is their belief. Fortunately, we are unaware of anybody who has been arrested or prosecuted under this interpretation of the law. Hopefully, nobody will before the legislature has an opportunity to redress it.

School-sponsored activity that occurs outside of the area of a school

Now, what about carrying at a school-sponsored activity that occurs outside of the area of a school? For example, let’s say that a license to carry holder is having dinner at a Dairy Queen. The high school basketball team just happens to show up for their after-game meal. Is this LTC holder now carrying at a school- sponsored event, and therefore would be prohibited? Well, the Texas Legislature in this past session had a bill filed that would clear up this area, and it would specify that a school-sponsored activity could only occur on property that is owned by the school, therefore exempting off-premises locations such as restaurants, parks, museums, etc. However, this bill did not pass.

So, does there continue to be a risk that an individual carries at a school-sponsored activity if they just happen to lawfully be somewhere and a school-sponsored activity happens upon them. In theory, this could happen. However, we have yet to see anybody arrested or prosecuted for this, and we continue to hope that it does not happen. Obviously, the defense would be that the individual did not intend to carry a school-sponsored activity. They just happened to be in a place where they were lawful to be, and the school-sponsored activity happened upon them. They did not intend to carry at the event.

One area where the Texas Legislature did provide some clarification is that as of September 1st, 2017, a school district or open enrollment charter school cannot have an employment policy that prohibits its employees who are LTC holders from keeping firearms or ammunition in their private motor vehicles that are parked on school parking lots. Now, keep in mind that the firearm does have to be concealed, it cannot be in plain view.

What this means is that while it has never been a criminal act for an employee of a school to have a handgun in their motor vehicle on a parking lot, it now cannot be considered to be a violation of employment rules or school policy.

So now a school district cannot discipline or fire an employee who is an LTC holder who lawfully keeps a handgun concealed in their motor vehicle on a school parking lot. This is a great win for school employees who previously had been prohibited under the threat of losing their job for lawfully carrying a handgun in their motor vehicle on a school parking lot.

Source: Texas Law Shield

Texas: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Posted on by Texas and U.S. Law Shield Admin

Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor, Walker & Taylor Law Firm, Houston:

Today, we’re going to talk about what you can do if someone is breaking into your vehicle while you’re at your house. Well, first of all, what is this crime even called? It’s called burglary of a motor vehicle.

Now, that’s what makes this discussion interesting, because as you may already know, you can have the right to respond with deadly force when someone is committing a burglary against your property. The problem here is that the statute only reads burglary, and there are multiple different kinds of burglary in the State of Texas.

Things like burglary of the habitation, burglary of a building, burglary of a coin-operated machine, and, of course, our topic today, burglary of a motor vehicle. Because the statute doesn’t specify which kind of burglary you can respond to with deadly force, we’re kind of at a loss legally.

The problem here is that there’s no controlling case law that says that you are allowed to use deadly force against a burglar who’s breaking into your car. I know you’re probably thinking I’ve seen it on the news. I’ve heard anecdotes about people who shoot at someone who’s burglarizing their car and that shooter doesn’t get arrested. Nothing terrible happens to them; they’re allowed to go on about their lives.

I’ve heard those anecdotes, too; the problem is that because we don’t have case law that controls if you use deadly force against someone who’s burglarizing your vehicle, you could be put in the position of being the test case for whether or not that behavior is allowed under Texas law.

If someone’s breaking into your vehicle in the nighttime, the law becomes much more clear. Texas statutes say that you can, if you act reasonably, use deadly force against someone committing a theft during the nighttime.

The person who’s breaking into your vehicle is doing so presumably to commit a theft of what’s inside, so if you witness this activity in the night time, so long as you’re acting reasonably, as determined by potentially a judge or a jury, you can have the right in Texas to use deadly force against that person.

Day or night, you always have the right to use force against the person who’s committing the burglary of a motor vehicle. Use of force can look like a lot of different things, could look like anything from verbal commands to stop to actually physically going over and stopping the person with your hands, engaging them physically with your hands.

It could look like everything up into pointing a firearm at someone, so the question becomes, could you point your gun at someone and hold them at gunpoint until the police arrived because they’ve been burglarizing your motor vehicle?

Well, that would be a use of force, and a use of force can be justified in this instance. But keep in mind, your use of force has to be reasonable, it has to be immediately necessary, and it should be proportional to the amount of force that the person is perpetrating against you.

So while holding someone at gunpoint is potentially something that you’re allowed to do when they’re burglarizing your motor vehicle, keep in mind that the ultimate authority on whether or not that’s allowed is potentially a jury at trial, or a judge.


Source: U.S. Law Shield

Fired for Your Firearm: Do You Have any Options?

A recent incident in which a Waffle House waittress was fired after defending herself against an attempted robbery shows that even when people exercise their legal right to self defense, they can still be terminated by their employers.

According to WSBTV in Georgia, “Deputies said robbers gave a note to a waitress that threatened to shoot everyone unless she gave them money.” Heather Stanley, another waitress at the Newnan, Georgia eatery, went out to her car, retrieved her handgun, and “fired one shot into the air” as the would-be robbers ran to their cars.

Stanley was fired by Waffle House after the incident.

Stanley told WSBTV, “I didn’t know if they had guns. I didn’t know if they were going to their vehicle to get another one and could come back and try to get to the safe, so my instinct was to go to my car and get the gun.” Stanley added, “For trying to protect their Waffle House and trying to protect their money and to get their money back, they let me go.”

In Texas, employers can fire employees for similar policy violations. Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor of Walker & Byington discusses the limited options fired employees in the Lone Star State have if they violate an employer’s firearms policy:

What happens if you do get fired for violating a firearms policy? Well, unfortunately, Texas is an “employment at will” state, so your employer can fire you for virtually any reason, or no reason at all at any time.

So if you’re fired for violating a firearms policy you don’t really have a recourse. Firearms owners in Texas are not a protected class of persons, so you can’t come back then and sue your employer and say you were discriminated against for being a firearms owner. We reserve this protected-class status for things like race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and things of this nature.

There’s one more quirk in Texas firearms law that pertains to employers and employees, and this is having your firearm in your vehicle at work. We have a bill here in Texas that says that the general rule is employers must allow you to do this.

However, that bill doesn’t have a punishment for employers who violate this law, so at the end of the day, if you have your firearm in the car, your employer tells you that you cannot do this, and then they fire you for having your firearm in the car, unfortunately, even though, they are in violation of the statute, you have again no legal recourse because Texas is employment at will.


Source: U.S. Law Shield

Levi’s CEO: ‘You don’t need a gun to try on a pair of jeans’

Last week, Levi Strauss Chief Executive Chip Bergh posted an open letter on LinkedIn asking the company’s customers not to bring weapons into the company’s stores. Does Bergh’s statement raise legal problems for LTC permit holders in Texas?

From Bergh’s statement:

“Providing a safe environment to work and shop is a top priority for us at Levi Strauss & Co. That imperative is quickly challenged, however, when a weapon is carried into one of our stores. Recently, we had an incident in one of our stores where a gun inadvertently went off, injuring the customer who was carrying it.

levi's, carry handgun, holster
Levi Strauss Chief Executive Chip Bergh has asked customers not to bring weapons into the company’s stores. Is that effective notice for LTC permit holders in Texas?

“So, while we understand the heartfelt and strongly-held opinions on both sides of the gun debate, it is with the safety and security of our employees and customers in mind that we respectfully ask people not to bring firearms into our stores, offices or facilities, even in states where it’s permitted by law. Of course, authorized members of law enforcement are an exception.”

“It’s not an anti-Second Amendment thing,” Bergh told Fortune magazine. The denim apparel maker stopped short of issuing an outright ban on firearms. Bergh, 59, is a former U.S. Army captain and claimed he is currently not a gun owner.

“You don’t need a gun to try on a pair of jeans and it’s really out of respect for the safety of our employees and consumers shopping in our stores,” Bergh told Fortune.

Texas & U.S. Law Shield commenters on our Facebook pages pointed out, however, that it is necessary to bring your carry handgun if you’re trying on pants, otherwise, “How do you know the jeans will fit over your IWB holster?” said Chris W. The positioning of belt loops on the waistband can also affect where OWB is most comfortable, others mentioned. And the cut and size of pockets affects pocket carry, commenters said.

The legal issue for Texas Law Shield Members is, does Bergh’s statement constitute legal notice under the state’s 30.06 and 30.07 statutes?

Independent Program Attorney Michele Byington, of the Houston-based Walker & Byington law firm and a contributing legal editor for Texas Law Shield’s blog, said, “Do his statements give LTC holders proper notice to prohibit them from carrying into a Levi’s store? Nope.”

She added, “We’ve seen these sorts of statements before from Target and Starbuck’s executives, but they have no legal bearing on Texas LTC holders. In order to prohibit an LTC holder from carrying into a store, there are three ways to give effective notice.”

She described those methods: “The most popular is by posting a 30.06 sign to prohibit concealed carry or a 30.07 sign to prohibit open carry. Second, a person with apparent authority may approach a person to specifically tell them guns are not allowed on the premises. Finally, giving a written communication to a person with the proper 30.06 or 30.07 language will suffice as effective notice.”

“If Mr. Bergh wants to prohibit LTC holders from carrying into his stores, he must follow the law as it is laid out by Texas Penal Code sections 30.06 and 30.07 like the rest of us,” Byington said.

The incident that precipitated Bergh’s statement, he said, was when a customer carrying a handgun accidentally shot himself inside a Levi’s store in Commerce, Georgia. He suffered a non-life threatening injury.

Here is the text of Bergh’s open letter to customers:

An Open Letter to Customers: Our Weapons Policy

November 30, 2016

Dear Customers,

The debate in the U.S. over gun safety and gun rights is as complex as it is divisive. As a former army officer, a father and business leader, I’ve heard the arguments from all sides. And, as CEO of a 163-year-old company whose products and presence rest at the intersection of culture and community in more than 110 countries around the world, I feel a tremendous responsibility to share our position on the issue, now, at a time when clarity is paramount.

With stores in Paris, Nice and Orlando, and the company’s European headquarters in Brussels, I’ve thought more about safety in the past year than in the previous three decades of my career because of how ‘close to home’ so many incidents with guns have come to impacting people working for this company.

We operate in hundreds of stores across every state in the U.S., and laws are different in each one. We know that the presence of firearms in our stores creates an unsettling environment for many of our employees and customers. We also know that trying to enforce a ban could potentially undermine the purpose of the ban itself: safety. With that in mind we’ve made this decision as a business – a request not a mandate – and we sincerely hope responsible gun owners will respect our position.

It boils down to this: you shouldn’t have to be concerned about your safety while shopping for clothes or trying on a pair of jeans. Simply put, firearms don’t belong in either of those settings. In the end, I believe we have an obligation to our employees and customers to ensure a safe environment and keeping firearms out of our stores and offices will get us one step closer to achieving that reality.


Chip Bergh

President and Chief Executive Officer, Levi Strauss & Co.

Source: U.S. Law Shield