The Castle Doctrine

Fri, Jun 24, 2011


The Castle DoctrineYou’re sitting in the basement late at night, watching a horror flick when you hear a noise. At first, you brush it off as a figment of your imagination…or maybe the cat. But when you hear the patio door slide, or the sound of shattering glass, you know it’s no spectral intruder. Your children are asleep upstairs. There’s a gun in the corner cabinet. What do you do?

What is the Castle Doctrine?

In October of 2005, the Florida legislature enacted section 776.013, revising the legal requirements for individual self-defense. This law is known as the “Castle Doctrine,” a modern interpretation of the old English Common Law view that an individual has the right to be safe and protected in his own home; as the saying goes, “A man’s home is his castle.”

Section 776.013 gives a citizen the right to defend his home, workplace, or car from illegal or violent entry, or if a forcible felony (burglary, robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping, etc.) is being committed. This defense can rise to the level of deadly force, and applies whether you’re the victim or a witness. This is a very important doctrine because it allows people to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their property without fear of criminal charges from the criminal.

If You Use Force….

So, should you run upstairs and shoot the intruder, or get outside to call for help? One of the differences put forth in the new legislation is that people are no longer required to run if they can (otherwise known as the “duty to retreat”). If you go upstairs, after the criminal, according to the Castle Doctrine, the police may find you within your legal rights, and therefore not liable for criminal prosecution or civil litigation. Each situation, however, has its own permutations.  Domestic violence cases and custody disputes can be complex, and regardless of police findings, you may be contacted by Florida personal injury lawyers. Hopefully, you’ll never find yourself in this situation, but if you do, you need to retain a Sarasota Attorney.

If Force is Used Against You….

Although the law seems straightforward, exceptions exist. For example, one cannot justify using force against a police officer acting in the line of duty, or claim self-defense if they kill or injure someone while engaging in criminal activity. Nor does the law apply if the victim was provoked.  If you believe that you or a family member was attacked unlawfully, you need to consult a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer to determine if you have the right to pursue a civil suit.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a society in which people have reason to fear for their safety while living peaceable lives. However, we all know that horrible things happen every day to those who don’t deserve it. The Castle Doctrine was put in place to give people the right to protect themselves; however, it’s best to be sure there is a true threat, and to avoid pulling the trigger whenever possible. If you have questions about this, or any other law, call a qualified Sarasota attorney for expert advice.

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