November 1, 2007
Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground, Duty To Retreat
A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal concept derived from English Common Law, which 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. It then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that place (his/her “castle”), and/or any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. Within the legal paradigm, therefore, it functions as a type of justifiable homicide.
Castle Doctrines are legislated by state, and not all states have a Castle Doctrine.
Conditions of use
Each state differs with respect to the specific instances in which the Castle Doctrine can be invoked, and what amount of retreat or non-deadly resistance (if any) is required before deadly force can be used.
In general, one (sometimes more) of a variety of conditions must be met before a person can legally use the Castle Doctrine:
- An intruder must be making an attempt to forcibly enter a premises uninvited
- The intruder must be acting illegally — i.e. the Castle Doctrine does not give the right to shoot officers of the law acting in the course of their legal duties
- 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
- The occupant(s) of the home must reasonably believe that the intruder intends to commit a felony
- The occupant(s) of the home must reasonably believe that the intruder intends to commit arson
- The occupant(s) of the home must reasonably believe that the intruder intends to commit 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
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 office of the peace while they are performing or attempting to perform their legal duties.
Note: the term “home” is used because most states only apply their Castle Doctrine to a place of residence; however, some states extend the protection to other legally-occupied places such as automobiles and places of business.
Some states have a “Duty-to-retreat law”, which expressly imposes an obligation upon the home’s occupants to retreat as far as possible and verbally announce their intent to use deadly force, before they can be legally justified in doing so to defend themselves.
Other states have a “Stand-your-ground law”, which expressly relieves the home’s occupants of any duty to retreat or announce their intent to use deadly force before they can be legally justified in doing so to defend themselves. In states where Castle Law is included as a part of a larger personal-self-defense law, there may be a duty to retreat if the altercation happens in a place outside the home, even though there is no duty to retreat if the altercation happens at the home.