As the popularity of using e-commerce to buy goods grows, so does the risk of having deliveries stolen from the doorstep. But, some people have taken retaliatory measures against these so-called “package pirates” like using booby-trapped decoy packages. However, what are the laws about using booby-traps to defend your property? This blog discusses package booby-trapping and its legal implications.
A recent viral video on YouTube portrays a one man’s efforts to defend his deliveries. The video showed how NASA engineer, Mark Rober, rigged a decoy package blast its surroundings with a pound of glitter and release a foul odor when someone tries to open it. As a result, perpetrators, their cars, or rooms end up covered in glitter and infected with a putrid stench. Additionally, the decoy package contained cameras for recording live video as the package thieves triggered the trap.
However, this wasn’t the first news report of a private individual’s attempt to retaliate against package piracy. Last year, a man rigged a similar decoy package with a device that detonated a 12-gauge shotgun blank to startle and draw attention to the thief.
Civil Liability for Battery
Rober’s “glitter-bomb” booby trap potentially satisfies the elements for tortious battery. Liability for tortious battery involves the unlawful touching of another with the intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact, resulting in injury. Performing the requisite contact for a battery can be accomplished with an object. For example, intentionally throwing a rock at someone qualifies as a battery.
Additionally, the contact does not require proof of an actual physical injury. Violating a person’s right to be free from an offensive contact is itself a compensable injury. For example, some jurisdictions held that blowing smoke into another person’s face constitutes a battery.
Here, spraying a person with a large amount of glitter and a foul odor is an offensive contact. Further, Rober seemed to design the package with the purpose of offending the thief. Therefore, Rober’s glitter-bomb trap satisfies the elements for tortious battery.
Defense of Property
A person who is accused of committing a battery can avoid liability if the act in question was committed in defense of their property. The use of reasonable, non-lethal efforts to protect property can excuse their liability for battery. Here, Rober’s glitter bomb package appears to be a non-lethal means of deterring thieves from his boxes. Although it requires the thief to steal the decoy, they will likely think twice before trying to take from that house again.
Additionally, the decoy package rigged to fire a 12-gauge shotgun blank is non-lethal. However, improperly used firearms blanks have been known to injure and even kill people on occasion. An injured thief could make an argument that a malfunctioning booby was not a reasonable non-lethal method of protecting one’s property.
Consult an Experienced Attorney in Daytona Beach
Defending your property from criminals is important to any household. However, while you may feel justified and reasonable in your means of defending your property, you might be committing an actionable civil tort and possibly a criminal offense. That is why you should consult an experienced Daytona Beach attorney before you take measures to defend your property. At Politis & Matovina, P.A., we can counsel you about the applicable laws to make sure you aren’t exposed to civil or criminal liability for taking steps to defending your property.
To schedule a complimentary case evaluation regarding your injuries, call us at (386) 333-6613 or contact us online today.