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What is the Castle Doctrine? How is it applied in states that have adopted this in their law of self-defense for the exercise of deadly force?

The Castle Doctrine is an ancient legal concept or maxim. It dates from Roman times and its law. The concept is fairly straightforward. The castle, sometime ringed by a wall or mote, and/or its adjacent fields, stock, and storehouses could be (had to be) defended by force from all intruders and other attacks.

A castle and its environs were essentially an independent city and place of last resort for the nearby and countryside inhabitants. Raid and taking it by invaders was little different from stealing its livestock or crops and stores. If the castle fell or was significantly impaired by fire or plunder, that community died off or was taken as booty.

For this reason, deadly force was the mechanism to protect it, and this was tantamount to maintaining life. In states that adopted the Castle Doctrine, there are two (2) key distinctions a citizen must realize.

First, the concept is somewhat incongruous with the modern home and community. Second, most every state that has adopted this law has a qualifier that the exercise of deadly force must be objectively reasonable.

What is most critical with Castle Doctrine states is they have signaled a preferred legal policy; that a place a person lives in has special qualities and should be given leeway in its defense. Nevertheless, an exercise of deadly force may be perceived differently by law enforcement, a judge, or jury and should be avoided in the absence of any other reasonable option.

And even if the exercise of deadly force does not involve a criminal charge, it is probable a civil suit for injury or wrongful death will result. This is an expensive process, and like the emotional dimension of exercising deadly force, will likely leave an indelible print on the rest of one’s life.

Always remember there are no do-over’s. Life is sacred.

At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we routinely handle civil and criminal dimensions in cases of self-defense.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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