Can I physically remove someone from my office if the person refuses to leave after repeated requests?
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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021
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You are never allowed to physically remove someone from your office; it could be viewed as a criminal act (assault and/or battery) for which you could be arrested and prosecuted. If there is an injury, the individual could also sue you. Your best option is to call the police or building security to remove the individual as a trespasser.
Most of all of us have dealt with that person: the one who simply will not go away even when we make it clear they are not welcome. Instead, they stand there, talking to (or more accurately, at) us, sometimes yelling or haranguing us, no matter what we do or say. When this happens in public (i.e., on a street or in a coffee shop) or in the other person’s space—for example, their store or office—there is a straightforward solution: walk (or run!) away. Leave them behind; if they won’t go, you can go.
But what about when they are in your space—specifically, in your office—and won’t leave. What can do you do then? Can you physically remove them, that is, drag or shove them out the door?
No, you can’t. If you do, you will be committing a crime and could be fined or face jail time. And if you hurt them in any way, you could also be sued. Though criminal laws vary state-by-state, most are similar in the important aspects. For example, take Missouri Revised Statutes Section 565.056: 1. it is “Assault in the 4th Degree” if “(6) The person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.”
Shoving or pulling/dragging or lifting, etc. a person to move them against their will is certainly physical contact that is offensive or provocative. Thus, it will be assault in the 4th degree, which is considered a “class C” misdemeanor and is potentially punishable by up to 15 days in jail and/or a $750.00 fine.
If you injure them—maybe sprain an arm, or bruise them or give them a fat lip or bloody nose– it’s worse for you. That would be assault in the 3rd degree (under Missouri law, which we are using as an example) and a class E felony, for which you could get up to 4 years in jail! And if the injury is serious—e.g., they fall and get a concussion or whiplash injury or broken bone—now you’re talking assault in the 2nd degree, which is a class D felony, and you could be looking up to 7 years in jail.
Assault is also a “tort,” something you can be sued over, as well as a crime. Assume that you can be sued for any medical costs you cause, for any lost wages suffered (e.g., due to an inability to work), and—if a serious injury occurs—some amount for “pain and suffering.” Now, you may feel that just pushing someone out will not harm them so you don’t need to worry about a lawsuit, but sometimes situations escalate; and sometimes you simply misjudge how much force you used, or the other person is frailer than you thought. Writing now as a marital artist with 30 years’ experience and not just as an attorney, let me assure you that physical confrontations are unpredictable. Sometimes, you deliberately hit someone hard and they are unhurt; other times, making someone stumble the wrong way can snap an ankle or tear a ligament. The potential for injury always exists when you use force on another person.
If you use force to remove someone, you will at a minimum be committing a low-level crime, because the law does not recognize a right or privilege to use force on another person except in self-defense. If things go badly, you could be looking at a serious crime or lawsuit. Don’t take that chance. Instead, let the professionals handle it. If your building or employer has actual security personnel, call them—let them remove the offending person. Or if there is no security available, call the police. Again using Missouri as an example, “[a] person commits the offense of trespass in the first degree if he or she knowingly enters unlawfully or knowingly remains unlawfully in a building or inhabitable structure or upon real property.” That means that if you tell someone to leave space you control, like your office, and they do not, they are trespassing. And trespassing in this way, in this example, would be a class B misdemeanor—a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail. Better yet, because it is a crime, the police should respond and remove the trespasser.
So if someone won’t leave your office, don’t risk jail time for assault. Call the police and let the other person face jail time for trespass.