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Castle Doctrine in 2024:
Explained and Compared to Stand-Your-Ground Laws

Although people often confuse the Castle Doctrine with Stand Your Ground laws, the two are actually separate concepts. Defending your home and other property is referred to as the Castle Doctrine, whereas defending yourself personally is considered standing your ground.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is Self Defense?

Self-defense can be broadly defined as using force to protect yourself, your family, or your property from the threat of an aggressor. The term usually applies to anyone facing an imminent threat. The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law and Castle Doctrine are 2 of the most common statutory regulations falling under the legal concept of self-defense.

Related Article: Legal Self-Defense Weapons in California

Stand-Your-Ground Explained

Stand-your-ground laws maintain that individuals may use deadly force when they reasonably believe it to be necessary to defend themselves against violent crimes. Under such a law, people have no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, so long as they are in a location where they are legally allowed to be. The specific details of stand-your-ground laws vary by jurisdiction.

Castle Doctrine Explained

A castle doctrine stipulates that an individual's legally occupied place (i.e. home, vehicle) is a place where that person has protections and immunities permitting one, in certain situations, to use force to defend themselves from an intruder. The term is most commonly used in the U.S., though many other countries have similar laws.

Related Article: Is California a Stand Your Ground State?

What is a Duty to Retreat?

The duty to retreat is a legal requirement in certain states that a threatened person cannot harm another in self-defense when it is possible to retreat to a place of safety. This requirement is the direct opposite of a stand-your-ground law.

The duty to retreat is a component that sometimes appears in the criminal defense of self-defense, and which must be addressed if a defendant aims to prove their actions were justified.

How Many U.S. States Have Stand-Your-Ground Laws?

There are currently 30 states which have stand-your-ground statutes providing "that there is no duty to retreat from an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present." Eleven states impose a duty to retreat when threatened: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

How Many States Have the Castle Doctrine?

Forty-five states currently have some form of the castle doctrine on the books. Castle doctrine laws vary from state to state, with some states narrowing an individual's right to use deadly force against an intruder. For example, in some states, you must prove that an intruder was attempting to commit a felony, while in others it is limited to only when a person is in their vehicle.

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