NOTE: Since writing this article on January 26, 2012, the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida, has raised a firestorm of controvery about “Stand Your Ground” laws. The Wikipedia entry on “Castle Doctrine,” upon which “Stand Your Ground” legislation is based, also is in flux. Home Invasion News recommends that you check for updates in the Wikipedia entry.
January 26, 2012 …. The answer to whether or not a home occupant can use deadly force for protection against home intruders does not have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. The best guide you have are the regulations in place in the state in which the home invasion occurs. The best advice we can offer is to consult an attorney or read the laws in your state.
To facilitiate your research, here we present a summary of information found at the Wikipedia entry under “Castle Doctrine.” For more detailed information, including links to state law, please visit that site.
Different States Have Different Laws
State laws govern the use of weapons to protect home occupants from people who enter the home uninvited. In general, two types of laws govern this “home invasion” situation. The first group of laws (found in 26 states) fall under so-called “Castle Laws,” which cite no duty to retreat if in the home.
The second group (found in 18 states) expands the Castle Doctrine with “Stand Your Ground” laws, which cite no duty to retreat, regardless of where the attack takes place.
The Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine (also known as a “Castle Law” or a “Defense of Habitation Law”) is an American legal doctrine that designates one’s place of residence (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as one’s car or place of work) as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. The Castle Doctrine then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend their place, and any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. In a legal context, therefore, use of deadly force which actually results in death may be defended as justifiable homicide under the Castle Doctrine.
Twenty-six states have a Castle Doctrine, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio [extends to vehicles of self and immediate family], Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Each state differs with respect to the specific instances in which the Castle Doctrine can be invoked, and what degree of retreat or non-deadly resistance (if any) is required before deadly force can be used.
Please be alert that, in general, (one) or a variety of conditions may be required before a person can legally use the Castle Doctrine (please consult your own state law):
1. An intruder must be making (or have made) an attempt to unlawfully and/or forcibly enter an occupied residence, business or vehicle. The intruder must be acting illegally. For example, the Castle Doctrine does not give the right to attack officers of the law acting in the course of their legal duties.
2. The occupant(s) of the home must reasonably believe that the intruder intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death upon an occupant of the home.
3. The occupant(s) of the home must reasonably believe that the intruder intends to commit some other felony, such as arson or burglary. The occupant(s) of the home must not have provoked or instigated an intrusion, or provoked or instigated an intruder to threaten or use deadly force
4. In some states, the occupant(s) of the home may be required to attempt to exit the house or otherwise retreat (this is called the “Duty to retreat.” Most self-defense statutes referred to as examples of “Castle Doctrine” expressly state that the homeowner has no such duty)
5. In all cases, the occupant(s) of the home must be there legally, must not be fugitives from the law, must not be using the Castle Doctrine to aid or abet another person in being a fugitive from the law, and must not use deadly force upon an officer of the law or an officer of the peace while they are performing or attempting to perform their legal duties.
In addition to providing a valid defense in criminal law, many versions of the Castle Doctrine, particularly those with a “Stand-Your-Ground clause”, also have a clause which provides immunity from any lawsuit filed on behalf of the assailant for damages/injury resulting from the use of lethal force. Eighteen states have adopted “stand-your-guide” laws: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucy, Louisiana , Montana, Nevada, New Hampshsire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington.
Home Invasion News is a public service and claims no expertise in any legal matters. For more detailed information, on this important subject, please consult with your attorney. We gratefully pulled much of our article here from the comprehensive and excellent Wikipedia entry on this topic, which contains links to the specific laws of each state. Please do visit the Wikipedia site for more information and, again, please consult your attorney.