If someone breaks into your home, the use of deadly force could be justifiable under Kentucky’s self-defense laws and the Castle Doctrine. However, there are exceptions in which the use of deadly force could result in an arrest for assault, homicide, or manslaughter.
It is wise to understand your legal rights to avoid a weapons charge or murder charge, especially if you own a gun to protect yourself and your family from intruders.
What is the Castle Doctrine?
All 50 states have some form of the Castle Doctrine. The doctrine is based on the premise that a person’s home is their castle, and the person has the right to defend the castle from intruders. The laws regarding self-defense in your home vary by state.
Some states impose a duty to retreat before using deadly force. Kentucky is a stand your ground state. You are not under any obligation to retreat before using deadly force to defend yourself.
The statute regarding the use of defensive force in a dwelling or residence states specifically that you:
- Do not have a duty to retreat
- Can meet force with force
- Stand your ground if you are attacked in any place where you are legally allowed to be, including your home.
However, you must reasonably believe that you are acting to prevent great bodily harm or death to yourself or another person or to prevent the commission of a felony by the use of force.
The statute says that it is presumed that you had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily injury to yourself or another person if:
- The person you used deadly force upon was forcibly and unlawfully entering or had forcibly and unlawfully entered your residence or dwelling; or,
- The person you used deadly force upon attempted to remove you or another person from the residence or dwelling against the person’s will.
It is also presumed that you had a reasonable fear of imminent peril if you knew or had a reason to believe that a forcible and unlawful entry or act had occurred or was occurring when you used deadly force.
Therefore, under Kentucky’s Castle Doctrine, you may have the right to shoot someone who is entering your home. There are some exceptions to the rule that you should understand.
Exceptions to the Castle Doctrine in Kentucky
You may not have the right to shoot someone entering your home in certain situations. If any of the following factors apply, it is not presumed that you had a reasonable fear of imminent peril or death:
- You used deadly force against a person who is the legal guardian or has lawful custody of a child or grandchild that the person was removing from the home
- You engaged in unlawful activity, or you were using your home to conduct an unlawful activity
- The person you shot had a lawful right to be in the home or is the owner of the home, and there is no order preventing the person form being in the home, such as a protective order or pretrial supervision order
- The person entering the home is a peace officer entering the home in the performance of their official duties, and the officer identified themselves as required by law
- You knew or should have reasonably known that the person entering the home as a peace officer
The statute also places a presumption on a person who is entering a home by force or unlawful means. The law presumes that the person is entering the home with the intent to commit an unlawful act of violence or force.
What are the Self-Defense Laws in Kentucky?
Kentucky has broad self-defense laws that allow a person to defend themselves from harm. The laws allow for the use of deadly force in certain situations. The self-defense statute is different from the statute that allows a person to use deadly force against an intruder.
According to the statute, the use of physical force is justifiable when you believe that the use of physical force is necessary to protect yourself from the use of unlawful physical force against you.
The use of deadly force is only justifiable when the use of deadly force is necessary to protect yourself from:
- Serious physical harm
- A felony act involving the use of force
- Sexual intercourse by threat or force
- Circumstances outlined in the Castle Doctrine statute
You do not have a duty to retreat before lawfully using physical force or deadly force, as outlined in the self-defense statute.
Self-defense is a common criminal defense used in cases involving battery, domestic violence, assault, murder, and other violent crimes. Even though you do not have the duty to retreat, self-defense may not be justified in all situations.
Using Self-Defense or Stand Your Ground as a Defense to Criminal Charges
You can use either statute as a defense to charges of assault, murder, or other violence. It is an affirmative defense that you must raise during a criminal trial. If a jury finds that you acted in self-defense or used force to lawfully defend yourself against an intruder in your home, it is a complete defense to the criminal charges.
However, there are cases in which self-defense may not work as a defense to the charges. For example, if you provoked the use of physical force by the other person, a claim of self-defense would not apply. You also cannot use a claim of self-defense when a police officer was arresting you.
What Should You Do if You are Arrested After Shooting Someone in Your Home?
Call 911 immediately to report the incident and request emergency medical services and the police. If you did not fatally shoot the person, you could continue to protect yourself if the person tries to harm you or your family members.
If you are pointing your gun at the intruder to keep the intruder from moving while you wait for the police to arrive, notify the 911 operator that you are holding a firearm. The operator needs to let the police officer know so they understand that you are not a threat. As soon as the first police officer arrives, follow the officer’s instructions immediately.
If you are arrested after the shooting, exercise your right to remain silent, except for stating that you want to talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Even though you may be innocent of the crime, you need to protect your legal rights. Do not answer any questions without a lawyer present.
Avoid discussing the matter with anyone except your lawyer, including your family and friends. Anyone you tell about the incident could be called as a witness. Your lawyer will give you additional instructions about the steps you need to take and the things you need to avoid to help defend yourself against the criminal charges.
Call Our Kentucky Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you face criminal charges because you shot someone in your home or defended yourself from harm, contact our office to speak with a Kentucky criminal defense lawyer. You may have one or more legal defenses that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced.