It’s been said that a man’s home is his castle, but what rights does this afford a homeowner in defense of this castle?
The Castle Doctrine (also known as castle law or make my day law) gives citizens in their homes – and in some states – cars or workplaces the right to protect themselves, other people, and their property by force – in some instances even deadly force.
The laws differ from state to state, and what may be considered self defense in one state, might be grounds for a murder or manslaughter indictment in another.
Strong Castle Doctrine
Today most states have some kind of castle law. The stronger laws do not require homeowners to attempt to retreat before using force to protect their domicile, and there are a select few states that have very strong stand-your-ground laws allowing citizens to use force in their car or at work without first trying to retreat.
States like Texas allow citizens protecting their homes, car, or place of business or employment to use force – including lethal force – when an intruder has unlawfully entered or is attempting to enter using force; is attempting to remove someone from the home, car, or workplace by force; or is attempting to commit a crime such as rape, murder, or robbery. An attempt to retreat is not required before a citizen is justified in using force against the invasive party in Texas.
The state of Florida has such a strong Castle Doctrine that the dwelling being protected does not need to have a roof; can be mobile or immobile; and can be as temporary as a tent.
Other states with strong Castle Doctrine and stand-your-ground laws include: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.
Softer Castle Laws
Not all states give citizens as much leeway in protecting their personal property. States like California allow citizens to protect their homes with deadly force if they feel that they or another person are in physical danger, but does not extend to theft, and it only protects residents in their home, and not in cars or at work.
In New York you cannot use deadly force if you know with certainty that you can avoid an intruder by retreating. You can use deadly force if you are not the initial aggressor in an altercation within your home.
Other states with limited, little, or no castle law or case law giving citizens the rights to protect their homes using force include: Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Go Ahead, Make My Day Law
In addition to protecting citizens from criminal responsibility, many states, such as Texas, protect citizens against civil action being taken against them after they have used force to protect themselves or others in their home, automobile, or workplace.
As a homeowner and/or resident in the United States, it’s important to know the law in your state. So educate yourself.
As a criminal the only real question to ask yourself if you are a considering breaking into an unsuspecting victim’s home is, “Do I feel lucky?” Well do ya, Punk?
The information in this article is provided for general information purposes and should not be relied on as a substitute for actual legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with an attorney to obtain professional legal advice on Castle Doctrine in your state.
Author: Brendan Purves