State Constitutional Defense of Property Cases:

More from my article, which I introduced below:

The state constitutional defense-of-life/property provisions have most clearly and most often made a difference in cases where a person claimed a right to kill wild animals to “protect[] property.” These cases have read the right to “protect[] property” as a judicially enforceable constitutional right that could trump statutes. It follows that the coordinate right to “defend life” -— a right that the common law historically saw as even broader than the right to protect property —- would likewise be seen as an enforceable right.

The longest line of such precedents comes from Pennsylvania, where cases from 1917 to 2000 hold that the constitutional right to protect property entitles landowners and their agents to kill wild animals that are threatening the landowner’s crops, and that it is unconstitutional for state game laws barring the killing of wild animals to be applied in such situations. Cases from Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, and Ohio take the same view. Cases from Alabama, South Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming take this view even though the states do not have express defending life/protecting property provisions.

The common law has generally seen protecting property as an inadequate justification for using force that is deadly to humans; the constitutional right likely doesn’t extend beyond this common-law tradition. But when the law tries to interfere with the use of even nonlethal force against humans, the right to protect property may intervene: Consider In re Reilly [a 1919 Ohio case], which held that a ban on hiring security guards during a strike unless the guard “shall first have been empowered to act such special guard by the director of public safety” violated the state constitutional right to “protect[] property.”