SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Missouri law under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 563.031 provides that if you reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to protect yourself or another against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony, you are justified in doing so.
This law is more commonly known as the Castle Doctrine which is a popular term that comes from the legal philosophy that everyone is the king or queen of their own home.
Your castle can be defined as your place of residence or dwelling.
This can include:
- private property you own or lease
- property you have permission to occupy.
“What the Castle Doctrine did, it made it very clear under the law, that deadly force is allowed when you are defending your castle–when you are defending your home,” said Stacie Bilyeu, Attorney at Law in Springfield, Missouri. “Now, it is still subject to restrictions, you still have to be reasonable when using that force.”
Bilyeu states that the law made it clear that if someone is unlawfully entering your “castle” and you believe they intend to do you harm you have a right to defend yourself and your home.
Also, Missouri is a “no duty to retreat” state. This means that if you’re occupying a space legally, you have no reason to leave that space because someone is forcing you to leave.
However, Bilyeu stresses that laws are interpreted and there is a process.
“Let’s assume there is a shooting,” said Bilyeu. “Law enforcement is going to show up and law enforcement is going to investigate. They are going to make a determination on whether or not they think that the homeowner used reasonable force. They will then submit their findings to the prosecuting attorney. Then the prosecuting attorney is going to take a look at the facts and determine if they think the homeowner that shot the intruder was reasonable in using force.”
If you end up in a situation where you do have to use force to protect yourself under the Castle Doctrine, the law also grants you an absolute bar to civil liability. You could still have to defend yourself in a civil suit, but if you can prove justification then the other party will be responsible for attorneys’ fees and expenses.