Welcome to a world where the legal system treats you differently depending on where you draw your weapon. Missouri’s Castle Doctrine defines important rights and limitations as to where you can draw your weapon legally. Missouri’s law, which allows you greater rights when defending your dwelling place, is found under the Revised Statutes of Missouri, Chapter 563 (Defense of Justification).
Defining Your Castle
Missouri never uses the term “Castle Doctrine” in its law. The Castle Doctrine is a popular term that comes from the legal philosophy that everyone is the king or queen of their own home. Missouri law under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 563.031 provides that if you reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to protect yourself or another against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony, you’re justified in doing so from certain occupied locations.
These locations are defined as your residence or dwelling, your lawfully occupied vehicle, private property you own or lease, and property you have permission to occupy. Further, the same applies if someone is unlawfully entering, remaining after unlawfully entering, or attempting to unlawfully enter your residence, dwelling, your lawfully occupied vehicle, private property you own or lease, and property you have permission to occupy.
This doesn’t mean shoot first and think later; it means that you can use the legal defense of justification within these circumstances—defending the inside of your castle, so to speak.
“Residence” is defined as a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently, or is visiting as an invited guest. “Dwelling” is defined as any building and inhabitable structure or conveyance of any kind, whether the building and inhabitable structure conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
The Castle Doctrine has limitations. It does not justify you shooting someone in your yard or on your front step who has not placed you in reasonable fear of imminent deadly force being used against you. It does not apply if you were away running errands; you can’t set a spring gun, for example. You can’t shoot someone banging on your front door. You can’t shoot a fleeing burglar who is running away from your house. Something similar happened not long ago in Missouri, and a shooter was charged with a serious felony.
If you end up in a situation where you do have to use force to protect yourself under the Castle Doctrine, the law also grants you an absolute bar to civil liability. You could still have to defend yourself in a civil suit, but if you can prove justification then the other party will be responsible for attorneys’ fees and expenses—all of your legal costs.
The Castle Doctrine should nonetheless help you sleep easier at night in your home knowing that you’re justified in defending yourself and your loved ones within that home.
For any questions regarding what constitutes a “castle” in the State of Missouri, contact U.S.LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.