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Castle Doctrine vs. Stand Your Ground

What’s the difference between the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground in Wisconsin?

This post explores the similarities, differences, and legal interpretations of Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground in the State of Wisconsin.  Importantly, each of these doctrines apply to certain kinds of shooting.  Whether you’ve been charged with something as mitigated as misdemeanor battery, or something as serious as first-degree intentional homicide, the doctrines might apply to your case.

The criminal defense attorneys at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. dedicate their entire practices to criminal defense.  If you believe your case involves any kind of self defense issue, contact us immediately.  We answer phone calls 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.  And we aggressively defend all criminal charges.

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.  Section 939.48(1m) of the Wisconsin Statutes provides the castle doctrine.  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:

  • Firstly, 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.

  • Secondly, 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.

Clearly the Castle Doctrine focuses on your castle.  That castle can be your dwelling, your vehicle, or your business.  This doctrine allows for individuals to defend themselves in the three main places they’ll find themselves.  Those places are home, work, and on the way to work.

Finally, the individual asserting the privilege must show reasonable belief that the entry was unlawful and forcible.  For example, you invite someone into your apartment.  After they remain there for a short amount of time, you want them to leave. You tell them to leave, and they remain.  Does this satisfy the doctrine?  Firstly, remaining there might be unlawful.  But most importantly, the entry wasn’t forcible.  Therefore shooting someone you invited into your dwelling wouldn’t satisfy the castle doctrine.

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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 can generally 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.

Let’s talk about another example using stand your ground.  You are at the grocery store and someone begins shooting at you with a firearm.  In some states, you must retreat.  In others, you can simply respond with deadly force.  If you shoot back at the person in the grocery store using deadly force, and you’re in a stand your ground state, you need not find a retreat.

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.  Let’s assume the individual provoked the attack.  He is generally cannot claim self-defense.  The only exception is when he believes he exhausted all other means of escape from the death or great bodily harm.

For example, in Wisconsin, you started a fight.  Shooter pulls out a gun in response to your physical and verbal actions.  Again, you started the fight.  Because of that, you must have  a duty to retreat because you provoked the confrontation.

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.

Upon a satisfaction of the statutory requirements, courts should instruct juries 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

These issues become quickly complicated. Self-defense is the overarching theme here.  But when do stand your ground and castle doctrine apply?  It could become confusing for you.  Each of the legal doctrines applies to criminal cases in a different manner.  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 your criminal case involves self-defense, contact Meyer Van Severen immediately  We answer phones 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.