The More You Know

Our feature article this week comes from one of our members and competitors Shannon Posada.
This article is designed to educate.

MYTHBUSTERS:  THE “CASTLE DOCTRINE” DOES NOT APPLY TO VEHICLES

As a fellow firearms enthusiast and competition shooter, I love seeing like-minded folks engage in the passion of shooting.  While training is key, along with knowing how to use your firearm, you need to know when you should use it.   

I am a licensed Florida attorney with over 15 years of experience in the criminal arena, as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.  I am here to tell you that self defense and conceal carry laws are very complicated and confusing.  I have seen good people go down for being uneducated, assuming that what they are doing is right.  One mistake can costs you thousands in legal fees, bail money and expenses, and possibly prison.  Be smart, educate yourself, and stay humble.  Pride and ignorance are very expensive! 

LESSON #1:  The Castle Doctrine does not apply to your vehicle. 

Does the Castle Doctrine apply to vehicles?  No. Ok, I know some of you take great pride in your vehicle and invest a lot of time, money and energy into it. And while some car payments are as much as a mortgage, it does not change the fact that a vehicle is just a “thing.”  The Castle Doctrine only applies to your home: the place where you eat, sleep and live. 

This does not mean that you are never justified in using deadly force if someone is attacking you by trying to get inside your vehicle.  It just means that the presumption of innocence is not in your favor and you will have a harder time proving that deadly force was justified.  Likewise, you cannot use deadly force if you come across a burglar trying to get inside your vehicle, even if it is parked in your own yard/garage.  Deadly force should only be used to protect people, not property.

            What is the Castle Doctrine?  The “Castle Doctrine” means that your home is your castle and you have a right to defend it, even with deadly force.   There is a presumption that an intruder intends violence, and therefore you are presumed to have a reasonable fear of harm. While it serves as justification for using lethal force against an intruder in your home, it is  NOT  a “get out of jail free” card. 

            So let’s say you are sleeping in your bed and hear a glass window break.  As you slowly tiptoe downstairs in your skivvies, barefoot, shotgun in hand, ready to attack……ask yourself this question:  Am I legally justified in killing this intruder?  That all depends on the laws in your state and the facts of the case.  You need to make sure that deadly force is the only option, because the risk (life in prison) may not be worth the reward (dead perp).

            How does the Castle Doctrine work?  In a perfect world, the Caste Doctrine affords you the right to use deadly force against intruders in your home without being thrown in jail and gives you a defense to criminal and civil liability.  Most states have some form of the Castle Doctrine in place.  Some are broad, allowing you to use deadly force against any intruder.  Other states have more limited versions, allowing deadly force if an intruder is engaged in the commission of a felony or enters the home in a violent manner. 

Regardless of the legal protection afforded in your state, the Castle Doctrine does not give absolute immunity.  Instead, it gives you a defense against prosecution. If the police show up to your house and it is crystal clear that the use of deadly force was justified, you (hopefully) won’t be arrested. However, sometimes people are arrested, go to jail and have to go to court and fight to have the charges dropped.

Shannon Posada, Esq

            Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. All states have different laws.  If you are curious about your state’s laws, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area.