Missouri Castle Doctrine – What You Need To Know
You may have heard of “Stand Your Ground” laws from the news. Missourians need to understand what their rights are if someone means to do them harm. Especially if you have been charged with a crime and you feel that it was self-defense, Twibell Pierson criminal defense attorney can help use the Castle Doctrine to defend your case.
Where are you allowed to defend yourself?
According to the Castle Doctrine, anyone is allowed to defend themselves from “a dwelling, residence, or vehicle where the person is not unlawfully entering or unlawfully remaining”, “from private property that is owned or leased by such individual, or “if the person is in any other location such person has the right to be”.
What does that mean in a nutshell? Anywhere someone feels sufficiently threatened by another, within certain limitations, they are allowed to defend themselves. According to the law, this is defined as someone not having a “duty to retreat”.
How are you allowed to defend yourself?
If someone threatens you with physical force, you are allowed to return physical force. If someone instigates a fight with you, threatening to hit you in the face, you are allowed to defend yourself by fighting back. In this case, however, the use of deadly force would likely not be justified.
However, if someone instigates a fight and then you see them reaching for a gun, you would be within your rights to use deadly force.
You may not use deadly force to defend yourself unless:
- You reasonably believe that such deadly force is necessary to protect yourself, your unborn child, or another person against death or a forcible felony (any felony involving the use or threat of physical force or violence such as murder, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, assault, or sexual assault)
- The force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle that you lawfully occupy
- The force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter private property that you own or lease, or is occupied by someone who you have given specific authority to occupy the property if you can claim a justification of using protective force
Are there exceptions to being allowed to defend yourself?
- You may not legally use physical force to defend yourself if you were the initial aggressor in the altercation unless you can prove that the other person sufficiently escalated the situation.
- You also may not legally use physical force to defend yourself if the other party has communicated, they no longer mean you harm and are withdrawing from the situation. You would not be justified in shooting someone in the back that is running away.
- You may not legally defend yourself from a police officer who is justified in using force in arresting you.
- You may not defend another person with physical force if they would not be justified in protecting themselves with force.
- You may not legally use physical force to defend yourself if you were committing, attempting to commit, or escaping after committing a forcible felony.
- You must stop using physical force to defend yourself as soon as it is reasonable to do so.
If you have been charged with a crime but you feel you acted in self-defense, who has the burden of proof?
It would be your responsibility (or your attorney’s) to bring up that you acted in self-defense. At that point, the burden of proof will be on the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not feel the need of physical force was necessary but used physical force nonetheless.
If you have defended yourself lawfully but have still been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney. Twibell Pierson Criminal Law has successfully referenced the Castle Doctrine to defend their clients many times and if you find yourself in a similar situation, allow us to help you.