The movie Home Alone has become a beloved holiday tradition for many families. For me and mine, though, it’s something different. Oh, we enjoy it well enough, but I usually make a joke about bad parenting or two, especially since there was a sequel where they did it all over again.
Yet recently, the movie was on while we were talking about self-defense laws. While this is part of my job, my wife has questions about a lot of this kind of thing, so she asked a question and it started a whole discussion, all while Kevin was griping about having to share a bed on the TV.
So I got to thinking, would young Kevin have gotten in trouble had this happened in real life?
Well, there’s a lot to look at when making that determination.
Home Alone is basically Die Hard for kids, but because it’s for kids, you don’t get a nicotine-addicted NYPD detective with a Beretta, you get a kid with some serious ingenuity skills.
However, the courts have found time and again that it’s illegal to set traps as a means of defending your home. You can’t rig up a shotgun to fire when someone opens the back door, for example.
While Kevin’s traps weren’t anything quite so malicious, he still set plenty of traps. That’s something a prosecutor would definitely use against him.
But hey, no one got hurt, right?
Kevin’s traps were just playful mischief in the movie, but in real life, some of those would have likely killed the Wet Bandits. I mean, a paint can swinging from that height may knock someone out in the movies or a cartoon, but that degree of blunt force trauma may well be too much for a real live person.
Additionally, burglar Harry was knocked unconscious after missing a tripwire and falling. The line between “being knocked unconscious” and “being killed” is pretty slim. That’s another case when one of Kevin’s traps could have been fatal.
Because setting traps is ultimately illegal, any death that resulted would be more than enough to fire up any prosecutor.
Because of the way Kevin’s traps were triggered, it’s not impossible that a prosecutor would consider the whole thing to constitute premeditation. After all, it’s not like he just trapped a paint can and swung it.
No, he rigged them with cordage in a way meant to inflict maximum damage.
That would mean Kevin would potentially be facing first-degree murder charges.
The Movie Takes Place In Illinois
The state of Illinois isn’t exactly friendly to self-defense. It’s pretty easy to see this as the nail in Kevin’s coffin, so to speak.
However, Illinois is actually a castle doctrine state. Their version is a little different than most, of course, and less forgiving of homeowners than you’d see in a self-defense-friendly state.
Here’s a breakdown from an attorney’s website:
Defense of a dwelling
The next statute covers use of force in defense of a home. “A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling.” 720 ILCS 5/7-2(a). This section then defines that deadly force is justified only if, “(1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner, and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to, him or another then in the dwelling, or (2) He reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.” 720 ILCS 5/7-2(a)(1), 720 ILCS 5/7-2(a)(2).
What’s important to note is that using deadly force to defend a dwelling must meet one of two conditions: 1. The entry is made in a violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner AND the person reasonably believes deadly force is necessary to prevent an assault or violence to someone in the dwelling; OR, 2. The person believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent a felony in the dwelling. The first condition has two parts to it and they must both be satisfied for someone to use deadly force. Specifically, the aggressor must make entry into the home in a violent manner and the person using deadly force must have a reasonable belief that it is necessary to prevent violence against someone in the dwelling.
Now, the Wet Bandits were trying to target an empty house. At least, at first.
However, after their initial attempts were thwarted, they stopped trying to be subtle and were clearly intending to hurt Kevin. Because of this, it’s entirely possible that Kevin’s claims of self-defense would be respected by a prosecutor.
Wait, didn’t we do this one already?
Yeah, we did, but that tidbit may well hurt Kevin in a courtroom, but it may also help. See, the fact that his most dangerous traps were all set up in such a way that he set off the traps. That means that legally, they’re weapons, not traps. If the courts felt the same way, Kevin would have simply been repositioning weapons for his own self-defense from two clearly deranged attackers.
Now, does this mean Kevin would or wouldn’t be going to jail?
Personally, if Home Alone were real, I’d be applauding Kevin’s ingenuity and resourcefulness in protecting himself from a couple of dangerous men. I’d blast anyone who tried to send him to prison–or, more likely, some kind of youth detention facility.
But we know how prosecutors are, so it’s difficult to say for certain. There is a case to be made either way.
So tell us, what do you think? Would Kevin walk or would he get a felon conviction before he reached puberty?