You’re inside your home (i.e. sleeping, eating dinner, lounging on the couch) when suddenly you hear a noise at your back door. To your surprise, you find someone entering your home that you do not know. What do you do?
This remains one of the most commonly asked questions among homeowners. Do you run and hide so that you can call 911 or proceed to defend yourself, your family, and your home? While we cannot advise you on how to address the situation if ever presented with it, what we can do if clarify your rights so that you understand what you are legally permitted to do when your home is being burglarized.
Can I legally defend myself in my own home and if so, to what degree?
When a person enters a home without permission, they put themselves in grave danger as the homeowner, depending on which state they live in, holds the right to protect themselves on their own property. According to the Castle Doctrine, which is recognized in most states, a person has the right to use reasonable force, which also includes deadly force, to protect themselves from an intruder who has entered their home. When a homeowner applies force in an effort to protect themselves while in their own home, they shall be immune from prosecution.
Some states, such as Florida, have expanded on the Castle Doctrine and enacted the “stand your ground” law that gives citizens the right to defend themselves in a place they are considered to be lawfully present. For example, Florida law says that when a person who is not engaging in unlawful activity is attacked in a place they are legally permitted to be at, they do not have the duty to retreat. Instead, they can “stand [their] ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if [they] reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the following states have self-defense laws:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The NCSL also identifies the following states that have laws set into place that “allow that there is no duty to retreat an attacker” when in a place they are legally permitted to be at: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
Because every state follows different laws, it is best to contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area who can clarify what your state’s laws are. For instance, while some states do permit you to apply deadly force against an intruder, you may not hold the right to do so in a case involving theft.
Now, let’s say someone other than a civilian was to try and enter your home without your permission, such as an on-duty police officer. If the officer failed to obtain a warrant or identify probable cause for entering your residence, they may be violating your Constitutional rights. And this case, your best bet is to comply and then hire a police brutality lawyer who can help you fight back against the unlawful entry. Should you need help locating a criminal defense lawyer or police brutality attorney in your city, USAttorneys.com is here to assist you.