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Matthew Radefeld & Dan Juengel
Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Understanding the castle doctrine

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2019 | Homicide |

Recently, a Texas murder case grabbed national and international headlines. In that case, an off-duty police officer entered the wrong apartment, mistaking it for her own. Rather than apologizing and exiting the apartment, the officer shot the apartment’s rightful occupant. In the officer’s murder trial, the presiding judge permitted jurors to consider the castle doctrine. 

If you encounter an unexpected individual in your home, you are virtually certain to experience a variety of emotions, such as fear and confusion. You may have to use deadly force to prevent a trespasser from injuring you or your family members. Like Texas, Missouri law recognizes the castle doctrine. As such, you may be able to use the doctrine to defend yourself against criminal charges or avoid them altogether. 

Your home is your castle

As its name suggests, the castle doctrine stems from a notion that your home is your castle. While you must comply with a variety of federal, state and local laws, you may also defend yourself and your property from harm. In Missouri and other places, legal experts often refer to this right as the castle doctrine.

The law presumes intent to harm

Virtually everyone knows it is improper to enter another person’s home without permission. In Missouri, the law presumes that an intruder intends to harm the occupant or his or her property. As such, Missouri’s castle doctrine allows you to use deadly force to defend yourself without first attempting to retreat. Still, lethal force must be reasonable under the circumstances.

The castle doctrine does not cover retreating intruders

You do not have an absolute right to use deadly force against anyone who comes onto your property. This is specifically true when it comes to retreating intruders. If you shoot an intruder in the back while he or she runs away, for example, the castle doctrine is not likely to protect you.

It is important for gun owners to know the law about protecting themselves and their families. If you face criminal charges for killing another person, you may want to pursue a self-defense strategy. Naturally, if the scenario unfolded at your home, understanding the castle doctrine may be essential for avoiding criminal liability.