Fact vs Fiction of Castle Doctrine

    Massad Ayoob wrote an article over at Personal Defense World. He discuses some of the myths regarding Castle Doctrine and has some interesting examples that perhaps some of you may not have considered.

    As it applies to the armed citizen, Castle Doctrine means that if you are attacked in your own home, you need not retreat, but may stand your ground and defend yourself with whatever force is necessary.
    How many times have you heard someone say “I can shoot any stranger I find in my house, because Castle Doctrine says I can”? I try to educate them with what little I know and that they need to do more research just as much I need to learn more about the subject.
    As Massad explains in some interesting examples, there are exceptions that people do not think about. Ignorance is not a defense for shooting someone you thought was a stranger and a possible danger to you. In one example a man in Florida hired a workman to repair some storm damage. In the early morning the homeowner saw the workman with something long over his shoulder. Thinking it was a long gun, he open fired and crippled the workman. Now the homeowner is paying out over the lawsuit.
    I recently heard a guy tell me “If there is an intruder in my house I will know and I will shoot him”. I informed him you should really look more into castle doctrine. He waved the “I am sure God will have my back” retort. I replied “perhaps it is god telling me to tell you to educate yourself more on this”.

    Another example Massad mentions highlights the crucial aspect to use of lethal force. You must be in immediate threat of bodily harm or death. If you are not in immediate danger, you cannot use lethal force.

    Another man set a trap for burglars and caught two, a young couple. He shot and killed both the boy and the teen girl when neither was trying to harm him. He is now in prison, convicted of murder, and is probably going to die there.
    What about giving out keys to family members? People coming home unexpectedly and you assume it is an intruder? That recent case with the  Va. Deputy last August. Daughter sneaked back in late at night. Her father assumed it was an intruder and without clearly identifying the intruder, he shot his own daughter. Luckily it was not a fatal shot and she lived. A very good case for having a light with or on your gun for home defense.
    Another aspect of Castle Doctrine that Massad explains is that everyone in your household is under the same protection.That even extends to people you have invited into your home. Remember the Florida example earlier? Invited to his home and was in no immediate danger.
    This example is very interesting.
    Many years ago in Massachusetts, it was determined in Commonwealth v. Roberta Shaffer that a woman ordered to leave the home owned by her common-law husband or be killed was in the wrong when she returned, the man attacked her and she killed him with one of his own guns.
    In his last example two roommates quarrel and one defends himself. Mutual castle doctrine cancels each other out. So the defendant was in his right to defend himself. However the issue of No Retreat comes into the situation and you need to know what the laws are regarding that. Massad mentions:
    in a state that has a retreat requirement if one is attacked outside the home, always bear in mind that even in those states, retreat is never demanded by law, unless it can be accomplished in complete safety to oneself and others.

    I learned a lot from reading his article but by no means does this modicum of information cover the depth of Castle Doctrine. Do yourself and others a favor. Learn. We all spend time at the range practicing our skills at manipulating firearms. We should spend some time learning what happens afterward.

    Nicholas C

    Steadicam Gun Operator
    Night Vision & Thermal Aficionado
    Flashlight/Laser Enthusiast
    USPSA competitor

    Any questions please email him at [email protected]