Depending on the state, people can use force to defend their homes or its occupants from trespassers, criminals, or other threatening individuals. This concept is known as castle law, or castle doctrine, and allows people certain immunities when they use force to defend their home. Castle laws may also permit individuals to use deadly force to defend themselves, or their family.
When Can Someone Protect Their Home by Force?
A person is justified in using force toward another person in the protection of their home if:
- The force is immediately necessary,
- The force would prevent or stop another person’s actions, and
- The other person’s actions were illegal.
There is no bright-line rule about the amount of force that a person can use to protect their home. It must generally be proportionate to the action of the person threatening the home or its occupants.
When Can I Use Deadly Force to Protect My Home?
The use of deadly force to protect a person’s home is a controversial issue. Deadly force is any amount of force hat is intended or is likely to cause death or great bodily injury. That can include the use of a firearm, or even a person’s bare fists in some situations. Some states have created special laws to deal with the issue. They are called "Make My Day" or "Stand Your Ground" laws. Generally speaking, a person is allowed to use deadly force to protect their home if:
- Another person is committing an illegal act, such as arson, burglary, robbery, or another felony,
- There is a genuine and immediate danger for individuals
- The use of deadly force would prevent or stop the illegal activity
- Not using deadly force would put homeowners or family members at risk of serious bodily injury.
For example, you cannot use deadly force if person X is illegally, but innocently trespassing near person A’s home, it would not be acceptable for person A to come after person X with a baseball bat and hit him on the head. On the other hand, trespasses on your property. However, you can use deadly force if person X was attempting to burglarize person A’s home, such force would generally be appropriate entered your home began attacking you or your family.
Do I Need an Attorney If I Protected a Home by Force?
If you have used force to protect your home and are now being charged with a crime in connection to that force, or you have questions about your right to protect your home by force, it is strongly recommended that you contact a criminal defense attorney. Only an attorney will be able to explain the relevant issues and help defend your rights.