Can You Legally Shoot Trespassers in Montana?
Within one week there were two separate shootings by homeowners which raised the discussion of when it's legal to shoot someone who's perceived to be trespassing on residential property. To try to determine the legality of Montana in particular, one necessary step is to look at the Montana code annotated title 45 chapter three, which addresses when force is justified under Montana law. Here's a quote from the section titled "Use Of Force In Defense Of Occupied Structure" which can provide some understanding:
A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person's unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.
Based on the quote above, it's presumably illegal to use force or the threat of force against a trespasser if the property owner doesn't reasonably believe that the use of force is necessary to prevent an attack. This section of the Montana code clarifies that there's not always a duty to flee or to summon police before using force, again only if the person believes that force is necessary to prevent an attack. In this case, belief and intent matter in the eyes of the law.
In 2014 a homeowner was found guilty of deliberate homicide against a person trespassing in the homeowner's garage. He was sentenced to 70 years with no option for parole until 20 years have been served according to KGVO. This court ruling shows that encountering a trespasser isn't necessarily a justification for the use of force.