A common question people ask, no matter what part of the country they come from, is if it is okay to shoot someone who breaks into your home. In Kentucky, the answer is usually “yes.” However, there are a number of details and key concepts related to this topic that are important to understand.

First of all, because self-defense laws vary from state to state, you first have to determine what the law says in your state. Kentucky’s self-defense laws, for example, are spelled out in Revised Statute 503.050 and clearly state that “The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect himself…”

In fact, Revised Statute 503.070 goes one step further and permits the use of force in defense of another person as well.

With that being said, there are still several other key points that are important to understand about self-defense in Kentucky.

The Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine is a concept that comes from English Common Law. According to the doctrine, a person’s home is their castle and they have the right to defend it without a duty to retreat or attempt to retreat first. 

The Castle Doctrine, or at least some form of it, is quite common and is found in many states around the country. What this means is that in most states and most cases, shooting an intruder in your home will be seen as an act of self-defense or as an act of defense of another, as long as:

  • the intruder entered your home illegally
  • you were not in the process of committing a crime
  • you had the right to be where you were
  • you were not the original aggressor

There is a distinction, however, between one’s home and their property. In many states, while you can shoot a person who breaks into your home and claim self-defense under the Castle Doctrine, there is a higher standard if they are just on your property.

If a person is trespassing on your property, before you would be legally allowed to shoot them and claim self-defense they would have to act in a threatening way to the point that you felt as though deadly force was necessary in order to protect yourself or another from kidnapping, death, forced intercourse, or serious harm.

What About Stand Your Ground Laws?

Over the last few years, “stand your ground” laws have been a buzz word around the nation. Like the Castle Doctrine, stand your ground laws allow for a person to use deadly force if they believe they are facing imminent danger and that such force is necessary to protect themselves or another from it. 

However, unlike the Castle Doctrine which only applies to a person’s home, stand your ground laws eliminate the duty to retreat no matter where the incident occurs. This means that a person can use deadly force (like shooting) wherever they are if they follow the criteria laid out above.

The state of Kentucky is a Castle Doctrine state and is one of the many states in the country with stand your ground laws on the books.

It is important to note, however, that even in states like Kentucky with stand your ground laws, you do not have the right to physically attack anyone at any time. The exact language of such laws varies from state to state and there are many important differences. 

Just like with the Castle Doctrine, you cannot claim self-defense under a stand your ground laws= if you were the original aggressor, or if the force used is deemed excessive. Finally, self-defense cannot be used as a defense in the state of Kentucky for resisting arrest.

Hire a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has or ever does have to use force against an intruder or attacker it is important to know and understand the various laws in Kentucky or whatever state you reside in. It is also important that you remain silent when questioned by police. Anything you say in a statement to police will be used against you. 

Consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney before claiming self-defense. They will know the legal intricacies of such a defense and make sure your self-defense claim is filed according to all applicable and proper procedures.