§ 5.5 Defense of Property [1]

A person may use reasonable force to protect his or her possession of real or personal property. A person may only use the force that is reasonable in the circumstances to regain his or her momentarily interrupted possession of personal property or to protect the property. [2] Under no circumstances may a person use deadly force to protect property.


[1] This instruction is derived from Commonwealth v. Donahue, 148 Mass. 529, 531-32 (1889). The right to defense of property relates to the right to use reasonable force “to defend personal property from theft or destruction and real property for unwelcome invasion.” Commonwealth v. Haddock, 46 Mass. App. Ct. 246, 248-49, n.2 (1999). Contrast Commonwealth v. Peterson, 53 mass. App. Ct. 388, 392 (2001) (defendant not entitled to defense of property instruction in prosecution for assault and battery on police officer who entered home during loud party and removed cases of beer).

[2] The force used must be appropriate in kind and suitable in degree to accomplish the purpose. Commonwealth v. Haddock, 46 Mass. App. Ct. 246, 249 (1999).