Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground

The Castle Doctrine is a well known set of laws that all states have in some capacity. The Castle Doctrine addresses the use of force that a person can used to defend their home with their vehicle and place of work often included. Each state has their own restrictions on it regarding what the aggressor has to do before you can defend yourself, the circumstances that you can use deadly force, where these rules apply, if there is a duty to retreat, and other information. While each state has some form of this they span a large spectrum. For example Washington D.C does not allow the use of force resulting in homicide otherwise known as deadly force, to defend one’s self unless you are a law enforcement officer. While in Michigan and many other states deadly force can be used to defend one’s self in their homes if they believe it is necessary to defend themselves or a third party. The term “reasonable force” is used a lot when talking about the use of deadly force. It just means that any force up to and including deadly force you use to defend yourself or in most cases a third party, you must at the time believe is necessary to prevent death (rape, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, and burglary care often included as well). If the attacker is injured or dies while you are defending yourself the castle law protects the defender from being charged with murder, or from the attacker suing the defender for damages and medical bills. A map showing which states have a complete castle law can be found on the homepage.

Some states also have an extension of their Castle Doctrine called a Stand Your Ground Law, commonly known as the “Make My Day Law”. The Stand Your Ground Law addresses the use of deadly force to defend yourself outside of your home, vehicle, or work place. Overall a Stand Your Ground Law usually says that the use of deadly force is legal if the defender feels it was necessary to avoid death or serious bodily injury. Rape, burglary and to stop a commission of a felony may also be included in the law. A map showing which states have a stand your ground law can be found on the homepage.

A few states have what is called a “Duty to Retreat” which means that the defendant must make an attempt to retreat from the situation before they use force to defend themselves from an attacker. Also the use of deadly force is not legal if a jury rules that the incident could have been avoided if the defendant had retreated without the risk of serious injury, death, rape, or other crimes being committed against them. Ina duty to retreat there is usually a clause of “with complete safety” which means they must try and retreat if they can do so without the threat of serious injury, death, rape, or other crimes being committed against them by the aggressor. Below is a list of states with a Duty to retreat.