Wyoming and South Dakota Criminal Defense expert talks about how after protecting your home you may face legal penalties. Depending on your state the castle doctrine may apply.
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Hi, everyone. Have you ever wondered when is it legal to use your gun in self-defense? Hi, this is Christina Williams from Just Criminal Law.
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And I’m David Mann, legal storytelling specialist.
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And we have worked on cases together in the past, David, where I’ve had clients who had to use their guns and they’ve been charged with a crime. So we really have been able to dive deep into this particular topic.
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Yeah, I’ve I’ve been intrigued when we’ve when we’ve worked on these cases that there are some instances that are very clear cut, you know, don’t use a gun. And then there are there are situations where actually the law protects you. And this this one that we want to talk about here is called the Castle Doctrine, which now I know something about, but I didn’t before.
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So I thought, let’s talk about this. What is the Castle doctrine in Wyoming?
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We have a statute that actually protects people in certain situations. And if if they check all the boxes, then they are actually protected by the law. They are given immunity from prosecution. And so this statute is recent. And it wasn’t until 2018 that Wyoming adopted this. But the Castle doctrine goes way, way back to English common law before our country was even founded.
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So it’s it’s kind of like it sounds like it’s about it’s giving you the right to protect your castle. So it’s your the place that you live, the place it is your kind of home base, whatever it is. And the law says you get to protect that with deadly force, right?
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Yes. You do get to protect your your home with deadly force. And the idea is, if you are in your home, you have an expectation that you’re going to be safe. You there’s nowhere else that you can retreat to. You can stand your ground and defend yourself, your home, your family.
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And all states. This is not a national law like you say. This is all states don’t have this. It’s a state by state decision. And Wyoming has this correct?
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Yes. And it varies from state to state. Most states have the castle doctrine and there’s statutory immunity, though not everyone across the country enjoys that.
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Okay. So in order for this to be protect, you, if there’s ever a dispute about this, what need what are the elements that need to be present in order for it to be, you know, okay, to protect yourself?
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Well, the court is going to look at the facts and circumstances. So we have a clear cut case out of Wyoming where shortly after this statute was enacted, there was a case where a man was in his home and he faced an intruder who was he knew had ill will. He was aggressive. He and used threatening language and he was charging at him as he stood at his front door and the defendant in that case stepped actually inside of his door, told the intruder to stop.
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The intruder knew he had a gun pointed at him. He continued to move forward and was coming at the homeowner and the homeowner stepped back inside of his doorway. And as the intruder ripped open the front door, he shot him and the statute was applied. In that case, a hearing was held in front of a judge, and the judge found that that particular person in that set of circumstances was immune from prosecution.
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And the judge dismissed the case.
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And so if I remember right, the the parts of the equation that need to be there are that the it needs to be somebody that you do not know and that you have not invited into your home and that they have forcefully entered your home or something to that extent. Right.
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Right. I mean, it does not preclude you from being protected if you know the person that the thing I mean, that that is certainly something that adds to it. Say, if you’re in your home in the middle of the night and you hear somebody downstairs rumbling or rustling through your, you know, paperwork on your desk and and you grab your handgun and go down and confront the person and you don’t know the person.
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It’s presumed that you are in fear of death or serious bodily injury. If this person has gained access to your home uninvited, they’re unlawfully there. They, you know, say they’ve gone through your door and you’re faced with needing to confront them and you do confront them with a gun and you use force. You’re even allowed to use deadly force.
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That is, you know, in that situation, you could legally shoot the person. The law is looking at you as being in fear of death or serious bodily injury in those circumstances. So it doesn’t have to be an unknown person. You know, certainly there’s going to be situations where you’re you would know the person and this would still be justified.
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And I’m sure that the examples that you gave there is very clear cut about, you know, that this person was the defendant was being attacked by by the intruder. There’s got to be situations where it’s a lot less clear cut and the court needs to work out whether this applies or not.
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Yes. And there’s actually a reason Wyoming’s Supreme Court case that talks about a less clear cut situation where we have someone at a camp, a camping campground who’s staying in their SUV, and there’s a drunk and disorderly person at the campground who’s wandering around and lost and allegedly using threatening language and lunges at the defendant. And the defendant uses deadly force against that person.
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I mean, there’s there’s the issue there of and that particular case was the vehicle considered, you know, something you could apply the Castle doctrine to? And the Supreme Court said yes. And but the the issue there that was not presented to the jury. So they have to go back and do it again is whether or not that person was forcibly and unlawfully entering the, say, the camper or the overnight vehicle.
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And there was ever the evidence when he’d been on the campsite before and, you know, ran into the car and he was really spooking this person that was staying in their SUV. And so we don’t know whether or not the jury would find that that was an unlawful forcible attempt to enter, you know, a residence. But the trial court gets to do that one over.
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So, yeah, I mean, there’s all sorts of things that can cause a little bit of a variable here. But the take home is, you know, if if you have someone in your home that you don’t know that they are there illegally, they you know, you didn’t let them in and confronted with what you need to do in the middle of the night, you know, you’re justified under the law to protect yourself and to protect your home, your family.
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Okay, great. Well, if someone gets in that situation and they need a lawyer, how do they get in touch with you?
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We’ve included a link in the description. They can call, text or chat with a member of my team any time, day or night. We know you only get one shot at Justice, so make yours count.