A castle doctrine is a self-defense law that states that a person’s home (sometimes also a place of work or vehicle) is a place that grants one protections and immunities from prosecution in certain circumstances to use force or deadly force to defend oneself against an intruder. There is no duty to retreat from the situation in one’s home (or workplace or vehicle if applicable) before using force, but there may be a duty to retreat in a public place.
The United States has two different self-defense laws. The “Stand Your Ground” Law states that there is no duty to retreat from the situation before using deadly force and is not limited to one’s home, place of work, or vehicle.
The “Duty to Retreat” Law states that one cannot harm another in self-defense when it is possible to retreat from a threatening situation to a place of safety. In all duty to retreat states, the duty to retreat does not apply when the defender is in their own home. In Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Nebraska, and North Dakota, the duty to retreat does not apply when the defender is in their workplace.
States may have both a Castle Doctrine and a Stand Your Ground variation, such as Iowa.
Twenty-three states have a castle doctrine. Castle doctrines can vary slightly from state-to-state, with some states narrowing their right to use deadly force against an intruder. For example, in some states, you must prove that an intruder was attempting to commit a felony. In other states, it is limited to only when a person is in his or her vehicle.
North Carolina has a broad version of the castle doctrine. It states that a person who “unlawfully and forcibly” enters one’s home, workplace, or car is presumed to intend violence and harm, and therefore it is easy to establish self-defense.
Illinois’s version of the castle doctrine has more restrictions. The castle doctrine for Illinois does not include one’s workplace or vehicle. Additionally, one can only use deadly force if an intruder is committing a felony or enters the home in a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner.”
The following 23 states have a castle doctrine:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
The following 36 states have passed a “Stand Your Ground” law:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico*
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
*Eight states have case law/precedent or jury instructions