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Understanding Castle Doctrine Before You Get In Trouble

Odds are you’ve heard discussion of Castle Doctrine, probably in relation to firearm ownership. But do you know what exactly that entails? How about the difference between Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground, and Duty to Retreat? Laws are a complicated matter, so make sure you understand it before you try and enact it.

Castle Doctrine, also known as castle law, is the legal doctrine that states that a person’s legally occupied space allows them certain protections and immunities when using deadly force to defend themselves. For example: if someone breaks into your home with a weapon, and you were to fire a weapon at them, killing them, you would be protected from prosecution. It’s not quite that simple, however. These laws vary by definition and by state.

Castle Doctrine, Stand Your Ground, and Duty to Retreat

These are the three relating legislation that operate on this similar principle. Here are the summary differences.

  • Castle Doctrine: You can use force to protect yourself in your own space, such as a car or home.
  • Stand Your Ground: The ruling that an individual has the right to use force to protect themselves in any location they are legally allowed to be in (if you are attacked in public).
  • Duty to Retreat: The legal restriction that if you are capable of running away without using force, then you have to do so. In turn, this means that the use of force to protect oneself is unlawful if retreating is a viable option.
U.S. States to Watch Out For

Most States in America have some form of castle law and/or stand your ground. There are a few places in the country that have some strange modification to their laws. If you live here, you best look up the laws for yourself.

  • District of Columbia
  • Nebraska (justifiable use of force)
  • New Mexico (No civil immunity from potential lawsuits by the attacker or their family)
  • South Dakota (justifiable if the attacker is attempting murder of felony)
  • Vermont

The smart thing to do is to check whatever the legislation of your home state is, that will have the best information. The Wiki Page for Castle Doctrine has a summary of every state, with citations to their sources.

Don’t get yourself in hot water by trying to enact laws that aren’t applicable to you, folks.

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