What is the Castle Doctrine?

The Castle Doctrine is a legal principle that recognizes an individual’s right to defend their home (or “castle”) against an intruder without facing criminal conviction for actions taken in self-defense. Understanding the Castle Doctrine is important for homeowners and renters because it dictates their rights and responsibilities when addressing threats within the residence.

The Castle Doctrine Under Kentucky Law

The Castle Doctrine Under Kentucky Law

Under Kentucky law, the Castle Doctrine provides substantial legal protection for residents during a home invasion. There’s a presumption that someone unlawfully entering your dwelling intends to cause harm. This essentially automatically warrants the use of necessary physical force, including deadly force, in defense of oneself and others inside the property. 

Specifically, you must meet the following criteria:

You Were Not the Original Aggressor

The law gives you the right to use force for self-protection as long as you did not initiate the original altercation. 

You Were Not Engaged in Criminal Activity

Your legal protection under the Castle Doctrine would not apply if you were in the midst of committing, attempting to commit, or escaping after having committed an unlawful act when a break-in occurred. 

The protections offered by this doctrine require that you be legally allowed to occupy the space – a homeowner in their residence or an invited person on those premises. Trespassers do not receive these same rights for protection under the Castle Doctrine.

In Kentucky, meeting the above qualifications under the Castle Doctrine releases you from any duty to retreat. The duty to retreat is a legal principle that obligates individuals to withdraw from a confrontation if safely possible before resorting to self-defense using deadly force. 

Kentucky Also Has a Stand Your Ground Law

Kentucky’s Stand Your Ground law is a significant piece of legislation that affects how individuals can legally respond to threats outside their homes. It is similar to the Castle Doctrine but applies to places other than the residence. 

In Kentucky, individuals can protect themselves in essentially any location where they have a legal right to be. This means that if someone is in a park, restaurant, or other public place, they can use deadly force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect themselves from imminent death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, or sexual assault.

This law eliminates the previous requirement that individuals must first attempt to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.

What to Do If You Shoot Someone in Your Own Home

If you find yourself in the extreme and unfortunate situation of having shot someone in your house, it’s critical to take certain steps, even if you believe you had the right to use deadly force. Here’s what you should do:

Make Sure That You’re Safe

First, ensure that the threat has been neutralized and you’re no longer in danger. If there’s still a perceived threat, make sure you stay safe until law enforcement arrives. 

For example, you may need to lock yourself in a secure room or, if safe to do so without further risking your life or the lives of others, disarm the intruder. If you’re able to leave the house safely and need to do that, that’s sufficient as well.

Call Emergency Services 

Immediately contact 911 both for law enforcement support and medical assistance for anyone injured. It’s important from a legal and moral standpoint not to deny immediate medical care to someone injured, even if they were breaking into your home. Make sure you get checked out as well if you are injured.

Do Not Alter the Scene 

Preserve the integrity of the scene by refraining from any clean-up efforts or disturbing evidence until police have had an opportunity to document everything properly. Stay away from the area where the shooting occurred, and don’t let anyone else go near it, either. 

Prepare To Interact With the Police

When officers arrive, be prepared to interact with them in a calm and respectful manner. Communicate the essential details of what occurred, focusing on how you were under threat, but without offering more information than requested. It’s critical at this stage not to say anything that could be misinterpreted or used against you later.

You also have the right to remain silent and consult a lawyer before giving any formal statements. You may tell the responding officers briefly about the threat you experienced but also make it clear that detailed discussions will come after consulting an attorney. 

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

After contacting emergency services, it is essential to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Even if you acted in self-defense within your own home under the Castle Doctrine, considering the serious nature of such incidents, obtaining legal representation early on is a critical factor.

In some cases, you may not be charged for the shooting, but in others, you could still face charges and then have to prove you had the right to use deadly force. In both cases, working with a Kentucky criminal defense attorney is incredibly important.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer will assist in navigating potential investigations or misdemeanor or felony charges that follow. They will help protect your rights throughout police questioning should any suspicions over the justification of the shooting arise. They can also speak with eyewitnesses, if there are any available, who can help corroborate your version of what happened. 

Never Post on Social Media About the Incident

Discussing an incident like this online could seriously undermine your legal case, with statements potentially used out of context. As tempting as it may be to vent or seek solace from friends and acquaintances, don’t ever post anything online about what happened. You should assume that anything you post online or put in a text message can be seen at some point by the prosecutor.

Don’t Discuss the Incident With Anyone But Your Lawyer

After the incident, make sure you talk only to your attorney about what happened. It’s natural to want support from friends and family, but anything you say to them could potentially come out if they are forced to testify against you. When you speak with your lawyer, it’s all confidential; when you speak with anyone else, it’s not.

Contact Our Louisville Criminal Defense Attorneys If You Shot Someone in Your Home

Being prepared and informed about what to do following a shooting incident in your home can help protect you legally. If you need assistance, contact us to schedule a free consultation with a Louisville criminal defense lawyer. At Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers we will fight for you. Give us a call at (502) 371-7000.