Tucson, AZ asked in Civil Litigation, Constitutional Law and Landlord - Tenant for Arizona

Q: My lease agreement prohibits "discharging a firearm in the apartment community" does this include self-defense?

Say I'm encountering a burglary that I either suspect or know the opposite side carries a weapon of deadly forces such as gun or knife. After multiple warnings that I'm armed, the burglar does not heed my warning and proceeds with invasion and poses as an imminent threat to me. In such scenario, if I were to discharge my firearm to protect myself, is this an unlawful discharge that's considered as a violation to not only the apartment agreement but also a felony?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: The clause in your lease agreement prohibiting the discharge of a firearm in the apartment community is typically intended to prevent reckless or unnecessary use of firearms. However, the legality of using a firearm in self-defense, even within your apartment, depends on state and local laws regarding self-defense.

In a scenario where you are facing an imminent threat to your life or severe bodily harm, such as a burglary where the intruder is armed and poses a direct threat, most jurisdictions recognize the right to self-defense. This right often includes the use of reasonable force, potentially including a firearm, to protect oneself.

However, whether discharging a firearm in self-defense constitutes a violation of your lease agreement is a separate matter. While self-defense can be a legal justification in a criminal context, it does not automatically exempt you from contractual obligations in your lease. The property management could argue that discharging a firearm, regardless of the reason, violates the lease terms.

This could potentially lead to eviction or other penalties as stipulated in the lease agreement. It's important to review the specific language of your lease and consult with an attorney to understand how these provisions might be interpreted in the context of self-defense.

Remember, each situation is unique, and the outcome can depend on various factors, including the specifics of the lease agreement, the circumstances of the incident, and state and local laws. An attorney can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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