Castle Doctrine vs. Stand Your Ground

This post explores the similarities, differences, and legal interpretations of Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground in the State of Wisconsin.

Castle Doctrine – The Law

The castle doctrine and stand your ground defenses are subsets of the broader heading of self-defense.  In Wisconsin, however, only the castle doctrine is specifically codified in statute.  The castle doctrine statute provides two specific instances where individuals can protect themselves and others by using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm:

  • First, the person against whom the force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering the individual’s dwelling, vehicle, or place of business; the individual was present in the location; and the individual knew or reasonably believed that the person unlawfully and forcibly entered the location.
  • Second, the person against whom the force was used was already in the individual’s dwelling, vehicle, or place of business after unlawfully and forcibly it; the individual was present in the location; and the individual knew or reasonably believed that the person unlawfully and forcibly entered the location.

Stand Your Ground – The Law

Wisconsin does not have a stand your ground law.  In states that do have stand your ground laws, the right to stand your ground generally applies outside of your home, vehicle, and business.  In those states, an individual is generally allowed to use deadly force without a duty to retreat.  This means that as long as the individual has a legal right to be in the location, the individual did not provoke the confrontation, and the aggressor did not affirmatively break off or leave the confrontation, then the individual is permitted to use deadly force against the aggressor.

Duty to Retreat in Wisconsin – Provocation

While there is no specific statute addressing stand your ground, a few court cases have addressed whether individuals have a duty to retreat in Wisconsin.  The general rule is that there is no affirmative duty to retreat, unless the individual provoked the confrontation.  This general rule mirrors the self-defense statute.  If the individual provoked the attack, he is not permitted to claim self-defense unless he reasonable believes he has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm.

Duty to Retreat in Wisconsin – No Provocation

When the individual did not provoke the confrontation, the feasibility of retreat from the assailant is handled as an aspect of the general self-defense statute – specifically, whether the individual reasonably believed the force used was necessary to prevent or terminate the interference. A jury will be instructed to consider whether the individual had the opportunity to retreat, whether the opportunity was feasible, and whether the individual knew of the opportunity to retreat.

Further, if the defense shows that the statutory requirements to claim the castle doctrine are satisfied (see above), the court should instruct the jury that there is no duty to retreat.  The jury will be instructed to not consider evidence relating to whether the individual had an opportunity to flee or retreat.

A Complicated Issue

Self-defense, the castle doctrine, and stand your ground are all very complicated issues and apply to each case differently.  This is why it is important to have experience criminal defense attorneys handle your case.  Attorney Matthew Meyer and Attorney Benjamin Van Severen have handled cases where self-defense is an issue.  If you believe self-defense should be raised in your case, contact Meyer Van Severen today.