Legal Issues

A Man’s Home is His Castle—Doctrine

No Duty to Retreat

A large majority of gun shoppers that we ship to are buying their guns to protect their homes. The ability to protect one’s own family and property is one of those things that most Americans have a natural urge to obtain. Many states adopted a series of laws called Castle Doctrine to give ordinary citizens protection from the law so that they can protect themselves by using means that equal up to and including deadly force. The term derives from the historic English common law dictum that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.” Colonists later carried this law to the new world, where they eventually removed “Englishman” from the phrase, which thereby became simply the Castle Doctrine. No Duty to Retreat Every state is different in the way they incorporate castle doctrine into their laws. Differences include where the doctrine actually applies. In some states, your home is your castle, but not elsewhere, including your car.

  • An intruder must be attempting an unlawful or forcible entry into an occupied residence, business, or vehicle.
  • The intruder must be acting illegally—for example, the Castle Doctrine does not give the right to use force against officers of the law acting in the course of their legal duties.
  • The occupants of the home must reasonably believe the intruder intends to inflict serious bodily harm or death upon an occupant of the home.
  • Additionally, some states apply the Castle Doctrine if the occupants of the home reasonably believe the intruder intends to commit a lesser felony such as arson or burglary.

The occupants of the home must not have provoked or instigated an intrusion, or provoked or instigated an intruder to threaten or use deadly force. Whatever the case may be, the occupants must be there legally. A person does not have the right to defend a place where they are committing crimes.

Some states imposed a duty to retreat. This law requires someone to attempt to retreat from the situation, and only use deadly force if retreating would cause him or her harm. In contrast, stand your ground laws remove this requirement and allow the use of deadly force in defense of someone who is in a place that he or she has a right to be.

Effect on Crime Rates

There is a great deal of dispute about the law’s effect on crime rates between supporters and critics of the law. The third edition of More Guns, Less Crime, (University of Chicago Press, 2010) by John Lott provides the only published, refereed academic study on these laws. The research shows that states adopting Stand Your Ground or Castle Doctrine laws reduced murder rates by 9% and overall violent crime by 11%. Furthermore, this occurs even after accounting for a range of other factors such as national crime trends, law enforcement variables, income and poverty measures, demographic changes, and the national average changes in crime rates from year-to-year as well as average differences across states.

Before you buy a gun for home defense, always check your state and local laws. Why this may or may not change the way you defend your home, it is always better to know what to expect should you ever have to use deadly force.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. Hi, dougfir, (((It gets serious out here don’t be afraid to kill a person when they are threatening your well being.))), That’s fine and dandy just make sure if you kill some one it’s just cause, because 9 times out of 10 you will go to court and you will be judged by 12. So you better make sure it was just cause before you pull that trigger IJS.

  2. Yes a lot of people don’t know this, but yes I just took my CHL 3 weeks ago, and yes you can carry a concealed gun in your car without having your CHL your automobile is your castle also, but I would check your state laws first but most states allows this, but the intruder has to be trying to hurt you in threatening way, or trying to kill you or steal your car and kill you also, so basically he has to be armed with a gun or weapon. Before you can have just do to shot him, you still will go to court. But you should get off since it was self defense, just pray that the family doesn’t take you to court for killing the victum which 89% of the time they do if they don’t win in court to convict you. So just be prepared for a fight after you have done this. It’s never most of the time shot & your free nope.

  3. Here in Missouri, we have that law. It unfortunate that many residents of our state have to make use of it way to often. Just a week ago two guys kicked in a home and took a child and the mother hostage. The dad put 6 rounds into them killing one and leaving a blood trail for the police to follow. This happened on my aunts street. It scared my wife so much she allowed me to buy a mossberg 590 for the house. Something she was against at first because of the kids. Now her and my ten year old daughter practice shooting every weekend. It gets serious out here don’t be afraid to kill a person when they are threatening your well being.

  4. It’s a pretty easy search.

    I searched “castle doctrine Utah” and found the actual Utah legal code.

    I can use deadly force 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. “

  5. @ Ken, Brian and Derek. Your state’s AG website will tell you if you don’t already know. Not saying it wouldn’t be a good idea to post the list here but it is YOUR responsibility to know YOUR state laws. Defensive laws will vary and some need deeper explaining and are open for interpetation.

  6. I agree with Brian and Ken. I feel this story lacks vital information such as a list of states and a brief description on how they interpret the castle doctrine in that state. Somthing else I think it would be interesting to see in a castle doctrine article is home invasion statistics in states with castle doctrine vs. States without.

  7. Really David? so the laws that say you can’t go out and murder someone in cold blood “Don’t matter”? or the law that says everybody has to drive on the right side of the road? Perhaps you should think before you type out random bumper stickers.

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