Does Your State Have A Castle Doctrine?

February 26, 2016, by Ken Jorgustin

state-castle-doctrine

A castle doctrine (also known as a castle law) is a long standing American legal concept arising from English Common Law that designates a person’s abode as a place in which that person has certain protections and immunities permitting him or her, in certain circumstances, to use force (up to and including deadly force) to defend himself or herself against an intruder, free from legal responsibility/prosecution for the consequences of the force used.

Castle doctrine lays down that there is no duty to retreat from an intruder in one’s home. A justifiable homicide which occurs inside one’s home is distinct as a matter of law from castle doctrine’s no duty to retreat. With that said, as such, states with justifiable homicide provisions in pertaining to one’s domicile, do not in themselves authorize indiscriminate violence therein—the mere fact that one is trespassing is no defense per se to justifying homicide.

I encourage you to read the list of states below that have some sort of Castle Doctrine wording on the books (excerpted and/or summarized below), and then seek out the associated exact statute from the state itself (much can be found online).

While no one wishes that they will ever be under the violent circumstance in which this becomes relevant, it is imperative that you understand the implications within your state of residence. Read your statute and understand every word…


 
Disclaimer: These codes or summaries thereof may or may not be the most recent version, and we make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained below. Please check official sources.

 
ALABAMA
13A-3-23
(a) A person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he or she may use a degree of force which he or she reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose. A person may use deadly physical force, and is legally presumed to be justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense or the defense of another person pursuant to subdivision (4), if the person reasonably believes that another person is:
(1) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.
(2) Using or about to use physical force against an occupant of a dwelling while committing or attempting to commit a burglary of such dwelling.
(3) Committing or about to commit a kidnapping in any degree, assault in the first or second degree, burglary in any degree, robbery in any degree, forcible rape, or forcible sodomy.
(4) In the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcefully entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or federally licensed nuclear power facility, or is in the process of sabotaging or attempting to sabotage a federally licensed nuclear power facility, or is attempting to remove, or has forcefully removed, a person against his or her will from any dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle when the person has a legal right to be there, and provided that the person using the deadly physical force knows or has reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act is occurring.

 
ALASKA
11.81.335
“…a person who is justified in using nondeadly force in self-defense under AS 11.81.330 may use deadly force in self-defense upon another person when and to the extent the person reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary for self-defense against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery in any degree… there is no duty to leave the area if the person is (1) on premises that the person owns or leases.

 
ARIZONA
13-411
A. A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if and to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent the other’s commission of arson of an occupied structure under section 13‑1704, burglary in the second or first degree under section 13‑1507 or 13‑1508, kidnapping under section 13‑1304, manslaughter under section 13‑1103, second or first degree murder under section 13‑1104 or 13‑1105, sexual conduct with a minor under section 13‑1405, sexual assault under section 13‑1406, child molestation under section 13‑1410, armed robbery under section 13‑1904, or aggravated assault under section 13‑1204, subsection A, paragraphs 1 and 2.
B. There is no duty to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force justified by subsection A of this section.
C. A person is presumed to be acting reasonably for the purposes of this section if he the person is acting to prevent the commission of any of the offenses listed in subsection A of this section.
D. This section is not limited to the use or threatened use of physical or deadly physical force in a person’s home, residence, place of business, land the person owns or leases, conveyance of any kind, or any other place in this state where a person has a right to be.

 
ARKANSAS
HOUSE BILL 1240
The General Assembly finds that the current laws regarding self-defense and the use of deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person are adequate in that the law explicitly does not require a person to retreat from certain life-threatening confrontations if a person cannot do so safely. However, the General Assembly finds that there is currently not enough protection from civil liability for a person who rightfully uses deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person. The General Assembly finds that a more robust civil immunity statute is necessary to protect a person from civil damages stemming from an incident when he or she lawfully uses deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person. The General Assembly finds that the current laws regarding self-defense and the use of deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person are adequate in that the law explicitly does not require a person to retreat from certain life-threatening confrontations if a person cannot do so safely. However, the General Assembly finds that there is currently not enough protection from civil liability for a person who rightfully uses deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person. The General Assembly finds that a more robust civil immunity statute is necessary to protect a person from civil damages stemming from an incident when he or she lawfully uses deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person.

 
CALIFORNIA
Penal Code 198.5
“Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.”

 
COLORADO
Statute 18-1-704
“…any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.”

 
CONNECTICUT
Sec. 53a-20
A person in possession or control of premises, or a person who is licensed or privileged to be in or upon such premises, is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by such other person in or upon such premises; but he may use deadly physical force under such circumstances only
(1) in defense of a person as prescribed in section 53a-19, or
(2) when he reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent an attempt by the trespasser to commit arson or any crime of violence, or
(3) to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry by force into his dwelling as defined in section 53a-100, or place of work, and for the sole purpose of such prevention or termination.

 
FLORIDA
Title XLVI, Chapter 776, 776.013
Justifiable use of force: Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

 
GEORGIA
16-3-23.1
No duty to retreat prior to use of force in self-defense. A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, relating to the use of force in defense of self or others, Code Section 16-3-23, relating to the use of force in defense of a habitation, or Code Section 16-3-24, relating to the use of force in defense of property other than a habitation, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force as provided in said Code sections, including deadly force.

 
HAWAII
703-304
No duty to retreat from dwelling/workplace. The use of deadly force is justifiable under this section if the actor believes that deadly force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, rape, or forcible sodomy.

 
IDAHO
18-4009
Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in either of the following cases:
1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; or,
2. When committed in defense of habitation, property or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein; or,
3. When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant or engaged in mortal combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed; or,
4. When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed, or in lawfully suppressing any riot, or in lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.

 
ILLINOIS
720 ILCS 5
Use of deadly force justified. Specific legislation prevents filing claim against defender of dwelling. Illinois has no requirement of retreat.

 
INDIANA
IC 35-41-3-2
No duty to retreat from dwelling, curtilage, or occupied motor vehicle. In 2012, an amendment was made to the code to address the issue of force against a public servant. The amendment states: “A person is not justified in using deadly force against a public servant whom the person knows or reasonably should know is a public servant unless: (1) the person reasonably believes that the public servant is: (A) acting unlawfully; or (B) not engaged in the execution of the public servant’s official duties; and (2) the force is reasonably necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person.”

 
IOWA
704.1
No duty to retreat from home or place of business in defense of self or a “third party”.

 
KENTUCKY
KRS 503.055
No duty to retreat from dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle.

 
Louisiana
LA RS 14:20
(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle.

 
MAINE
104
Deadly force justified to terminate criminal trespass AND another crime within home, or to stop unlawful and imminent use of deadly force, or to effect a citizen’s arrest against deadly force; duty to retreat not specifically removed.

 
MARYLAND
No statute – see Case-law
Case-law, not statute, incorporates the common law castle-doctrine into Maryland self-defense law. Invitees or guests may have duty to retreat based on mixed case law.

 
MASSACHUSETTS
278-8a
Section 8A. In the prosecution of a person who is an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring one who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in his dwelling at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person unlawfully in said dwelling was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant or upon another person lawfully in said dwelling, and that said occupant used reasonable means to defend himself or such other person lawfully in said dwelling. There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling.

 
MICHIGAN
768.21c
(1) In cases in which section 2 of the self-defense act does not apply, the common law of this state applies except that the duty to retreat before using deadly force is not required if an individual is in his or her own dwelling or within the curtilage of that dwelling.
(2) As used in this section, “dwelling” means a structure or shelter that is used permanently or temporarily as a place of abode, including an appurtenant structure attached to that structure or shelter.

 
MINNESOTA
609.065
No duty to retreat before using deadly force to prevent a felony in one’s place of abode; no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in one’s place of abode. (This isn’t as clear as it appears, however. There are four cases in Minnesota where duty of retreat was upheld.)

 
MISSISSIPPI
MS Code 97-3-15
(3) A person who uses defensive force shall be presumed to have reasonably feared imminent death or great bodily harm, or the commission of a felony upon him or another or upon his dwelling, or against a vehicle which he was occupying, or against his business or place of employment or the immediate premises of such business or place of employment, if the person against whom the defensive force was used, was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, occupied vehicle, business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof or if that person had unlawfully removed or was attempting to unlawfully remove another against the other person’s will from that dwelling, occupied vehicle, business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof and the person who used defensive force knew or had reason to believe that the forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred. This presumption shall not apply if the person against whom defensive force was used has a right to be in or is a lawful resident or owner of the dwelling, vehicle, business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof or is the lawful resident or owner of the dwelling, vehicle, business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof or if the person who uses defensive force is engaged in unlawful activity or if the person is a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his official duties;
(4) A person who is not the initial aggressor and is not engaged in unlawful activity shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force under subsection (1) (e) or (f) of this section if the person is in a place where the person has a right to be, and no finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the person’s failure to retreat as evidence that the person’s use of force was unnecessary, excessive or unreasonable.
(5) (a) The presumptions contained in subsection (3) of this section shall apply in civil cases in which self-defense or defense of another is claimed as a defense

 
MISSOURI
563.031
Extends to any building, inhabitable structure, or conveyance of any kind, whether the building, inhabitable structure, or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile (e.g., a camper, RV or mobile home), which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, whether the person is residing there temporarily, permanently or visiting (e.g., a hotel or motel), and any vehicle. The defense against civil suits is absolute and includes the award of attorney’s fees, court costs, and all reasonable expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff.

 
MONTANA
45-3-103
(1) A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.
(2) A person justified in the use of force pursuant to subsection (1) is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if:
(a) the entry is made or attempted and the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault upon the person or another then in the occupied structure; or
(b) the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure.

 
NEVADA
200.120
1. Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of habitation, property or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against any person or persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein.
2.  A person is not required to retreat before using deadly force as provided in subsection 1 if the person:
(a) Is not the original aggressor;
(b) Has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and
(c) Is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used.

 
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Criminal Code Section 627:4
Not required to retreat if he or she is within his or her dwelling, its curtilage, or anywhere he or she has a right to be, and was not the initial aggressor. An individual may respond to a threat of serious bodily injury or death by displaying a firearm or other method of self-defense. Deadly force is justified if the aggressor is about to use unlawful, deadly force, is likely to use any unlawful force against a person present while committing or attempting to commit a burglary, is committing or about to commit kidnapping or a forcible sex offense, or is likely to use any unlawful force in the commission of a felony against the individual within their dwelling or its curtilage.

 
NEW JERSEY
Code of Criminal Justice – 2C:3-4
Retreat required if actor knows he can avoid necessity of deadly force in complete safety, etc.

 
NEW YORK
Penal – Article 35 – 35.15
Retreat required if actor knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others, he or she may avoid the necessity of using deadly force by retreating, except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor.

 
NORTH CAROLINA
14‑51.3
(a) A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat in any place he or she has the lawful right to be if either of the following applies:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.
(2) Under the circumstances permitted pursuant to G.S. 14‑51.2.
(b) A person who uses force as permitted by this section is justified in using such force and is immune from civil or criminal liability for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer or bail bondsman who was lawfully acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer or bail bondsman identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer or bail bondsman in the lawful performance of his or her official duties.

 
NORTH DAKOTA
12.1-05-07
When deadly force is used in lawful self-defense, or in lawful defense of others, if such force is necessary to protect the actor or anyone else against death, serious bodily injury, or the commission of a felony involving violence, An individual is not required to retreat within or from that individual’s dwelling or place of work or from an occupied motor home or travel trailer, unless the individual was the original aggressor or is assailed by another individual who the individual knows also dwells or works there or who is lawfully in the motor home or travel trailer. Also, deadly force is permitted in defense of property when used by an individual in possession or control of a dwelling, place of work, or an occupied motor home or travel trailer, or by an individual who is licensed or privileged to be there, if the force is necessary to prevent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, or a felony involving violence upon or in the dwelling, place of work, or occupied motor home or travel trailer, and the use of force other than deadly force for these purposes would expose any individual to substantial danger of serious bodily injury.

 
OHIO
127 SB 184
Extends to vehicles of self and immediate family; effective September 9, 2008.

 
OREGON
Oregon Revised Statutes, Title 16 Chapter 161
Use of force justifiable in a range of scenarios without a duty to retreat specified. Oregon Supreme Court affirmed in State of Oregon v. Sandoval that the law “sets out a specific set of circumstances that justify a person’s use of deadly force (that the person reasonably believes that another person is using or about to use deadly force against him or her) and does not interpose any additional requirement (including a requirement that there be no means of escape).”

 
PENNSYLVANIA
18 Pa.C.S. Chapter 5 – 505
The most recent version of Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine legislation was signed into law in June 2011. The law extends the right to self-defense up to and including deadly force in a victim’s dwelling (now including any attached porch, deck or patio), occupied vehicle, or any other dwelling or vehicle that the victim legally occupies. A place of work is included in the “castle” provision under certain circumstances. Use of deadly force is justifiable if the “castle” area in the event that an assailant is “unlawfully and forcefully entering” or has entered the “castle” area. Deadly force is also justifiable, subject to certain provisions, if a person that legally enters the “castle” goes on to unlawfully attack a victim (when the victim is reasonably in fear of his/her life) or if the attacker attempts to kidnap anyone who legally occupies the “castle”. The victim must be in “legal possession” of a firearm or other weapon to be justified in the use of that weapon. Use of deadly force to protect an innocent third person is generally allowed in circumstances where the provisions for justifiable self-defense are met. Victims who justifiably use force to defend themselves under the provisions of the law are immune from civil liability for any injuries sustained by the attacker during the incident. The new legislation also contains a stand your ground provision when outside the “castle”. Outside “castle areas” there is no duty to retreat if confronted with a weapon.

 
RHODE ISLAND
TITLE 11 Criminal Offenses, SECTION 11-8-8
In the event that any person shall die or shall sustain a personal injury in any way or for any cause while in the commission of any criminal offense enumerated in §§ 11-8-2 – 11-8-6, it shall be rebuttably presumed as a matter of law in any civil or criminal proceeding that the owner, tenant, or occupier of the place where the offense was committed acted by reasonable means in self-defense and in the reasonable belief that the person engaged in the criminal offense was about to inflict great bodily harm or death upon that person or any other individual lawfully in the place where the criminal offense was committed. There shall be no duty on the part of an owner, tenant, or occupier to retreat from any person engaged in the commission of any criminal offense enumerated in §§ 11-8-2 – 11-8-6.

 
TEXAS
Penal Code Sec. 9.32
(a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:
(1) if the actor would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; and
(2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or
(B) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.
(b) The actor’s belief under Subsection (a)(2) that the deadly force was immediately necessary as described by that subdivision is presumed to be reasonable if the actor:
(1) knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the deadly force was used:
(A) unlawfully and with force entered, or was attempting to enter unlawfully and with force, the actor’s occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment;
(B) unlawfully and with force removed, or was attempting to remove unlawfully and with force, the actor from the actor’s habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; or
(C) was committing or attempting to commit an offense described by Subsection (a)(2)(B);
(2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used; and
(3) was not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic at the time the force was used.
(c) A person who has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the deadly force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used is not required to retreat before using deadly force as described by this section.
(d) For purposes of Subsection (a)(2), in determining whether an actor described by Subsection (c) reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary, a finder of fact may not consider whether the actor failed to retreat.

 
UTAH
76-2-405
(1) A person is justified in using force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon his habitation; however, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if:
(a) the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person, dwelling, or being in the habitation and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence; or
(b) he reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony in the habitation and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.
(2) The person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the entry or attempted entry is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.

 
WISCONSIN
2011 Wisconsin Act 94
creates a presumption of immunity for criminal actions involving force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm. An actor is presumed to have reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself if either of the following applies:
1. The person against whom the force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering the actor’s dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business; the actor was present in the dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business; and the actor knew or reasonably believed that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring.
2. The person against whom the force was used was in the actor’s dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business after unlawfully and forcibly entering it; the actor was present in the dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business; and the actor knew or reasonably believed that the person had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, mo
tor vehicle, or place of business.