Your home is your castle. It is where you and your family live and sleep. You have every right to feel safe and secure in your home.
You may wonder if you have the legal right to protect yourself and your family if someone breaks into your home. If so, do you have the right to use deadly force and shoot an intruder?
Under Kentucky’s Castle Doctrine and self-defense laws, you may have the right to use physical force or lethal force when someone breaks into your home. However, before that happens, it is wise to know the state laws regarding a claim of self-defense. It is also wise to understand Kentucky gun laws.
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Kentucky’s Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine is derived from English Common Law. Under the Castle Doctrine, a person has the right to defend their “castle” from intruders. The homeowner does not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force. It’s assumed the person acted in self-defense if they were defending their home from intruders.
Each state has a form of the Castle Doctrine. Kentucky’s Castle Doctrine can be found in Kentucky Revised Statute §503.055.
The law provides that you:
- Do not have a duty to retreat if you are in your home
- You can meet force with force
- You can stand your ground if you are attacked in your home
However, you cannot shoot just anyone that is trespassing on your property. The Castle Doctrine requires that you believed you were acting to prevent great bodily injury to yourself or another person. You may also act if you believed your actions were necessary to prevent a felony by the use of force. Therefore, you must have a reasonable fear that you or another person was in danger of imminent death or great bodily harm.
The statute presumes that a person had a reasonable fear if:
- The person was unlawfully and forcibly interning your home or had forcibly or unlawfully entered your home, OR
- The person attempted to remove you or another person from your home against the person’s will
The Castle Doctrine gives people the right to shoot an intruder in their home if the requirements above are met.
However, the stand your ground law can be confusing. If you were forced to defend yourself against an intruder, it is wise to contact a criminal defense lawyer for a free consultation as soon as possible. Kentucky might be a stand your ground state, but you could still be charged with a crime in specific situations for shooting an intruder.
Kentucky’s Self-Defense Laws and Stand Your Ground
Under Kentucky Revised Statute §503.50, physical force for self-protection is permitted when a person believes that the force is required to protect themselves.
However, you can only use deadly force if you believe that you are protecting yourself or another against:
- Serious physical injury
- Sexual intercourse by force or threat
- Felony involving the use of force
- Situations permitted under the Castle Doctrine Statute
Kentucky Revised Statute §503.070 extends the right to use deadly force to protect another person. The same rules for defending yourself apply to your defense of others. Also, the person you defend must have had a justifiable reason to use force under the circumstances.
The statutes specifically state you do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force, provided you are in a place where you have a right to be at the time of the incident.
Are There Exceptions to the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground in Kentucky?
As with most laws, there are exceptions to the right to use force to defend yourself.
You are not presumed to have had a reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury or death if any of the following apply:
- The person you shot or used deadly force against was an owner of the home or had a legal right to be in the home, and there is not a court order preventing the person from being in the home
- The person had legal custody or was the legal guardian of a child or grandchild and was removing the child from the home
- The person was a law enforcement officer entering the home to perform official duties, and the officer had identified themselves as required by law
- You knew or should have reasonably known the person entering the home was a law enforcement officer
- You were engaged or had engaged in illegal activity or were using your home for illegal activities
The stand your ground and self-defense laws may leave room for interpretation. For that reason, never assume that you will be found innocent of a crime by claiming self-defense. It is always best to consult with a criminal defense attorney before making statements or answering questions after shooting an intruder or using physical force to defend yourself or another person.
Choosing Between Stand Your Ground or Self-Defense Statutes
The protections given to people acting in self-defense overlap between the statutes. Therefore, you can choose either statute to defend yourself against murder, assault, or other criminal charges. You must raise these defenses as affirmative defenses at trial.
If the jury believes that you acted in self-defense and feared for your life or the lives of others in your home, they should return a not guilty verdict. However, there are no guarantees with a jury trial. the prosecution can argue against self-defense and submit evidence and testimony that refute your claim. The jury could believe the prosecutor.
Your criminal defense attorney discusses potential weaknesses in your self-defense claim. Depending on the circumstances, the attorney could recommend a plea deal to a lesser charge.
Weighing the risks of going to trial can be difficult. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side from the beginning of your case helps you make decisions that are in your best interests in the long term.
What Should You Do if You Shoot an Intruder?
Immediately call 911 to report the intruder and the shooting. Tell the operator that you need police and emergency medical services.
If the person is not dead, continue to protect yourself and your family. Tell the operator that you are holding a firearm. The operator needs to let the police know that you have a firearm in your hands, so they understand that you are protecting yourself and you are not a threat to the officers.
Follow the instructions of the police officers immediately when they arrive. Do not point the gun at the officers.
Contact a Kentucky Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Consult
You may be arrested at the scene by the police officers. If this occurs, do not make a statement or answer questions. Respectfully tell the officers that you are invoking your right to remain silent and that you want an attorney. Continue to remain silent until you meet with your lawyer, including not discussing the matter with friends or family members.