In the dark of the night, you are stirred from your slumber because you hear noises coming from downstairs. Grabbing the pistol you keep for self-defense purposes, you start out of your bedroom, wondering what the law says about shooting an intruder in your home.
The concept that a man’s home is his castle started in England and came to America with the colonists. This concept is known as the “Castle Doctrine.” Simply stated, your home (or dwelling) is your castle; you have a right to defend it (including with the use of deadly force), you have no duty to retreat, and you cannot be thrown in jail for doing so.
The Castle Doctrine is found in Kan. Stat. Ann. §§ 21-5223 and 21-5224. Section 21-5223 creates a justification for the use of force and, in the right circumstances, the use of deadly force in defense of your dwelling, place of work, and/or occupied vehicle against an unlawful intruder.
Section 21-5224 creates a presumption that you have a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another if the aggressor against whom you are using force (i.e., the criminal), at the time the force is used:
- is unlawfully or forcefully entering, or has unlawfully or forcefully entered, and is present within a dwelling, place of work, or occupied vehicle; or
- the criminal has removed, or is attempting to remove, another person against such other person’s will from a dwelling, place of work, or occupied vehicle; and
- you know or have reason to believe that any of the conditions set forth above is occurring or has occurred.
This presumption does not apply if, at the time the force is used, the aggressor has a right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, place of work, or occupied vehicle of the victim, and is not subject to any order that would prohibit such person’s presence in the property.
A “dwelling,” as defined by Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5111, is “a building or portion thereof, a tent, a vehicle or other enclosed space which is used or intended for use as a human habitation, home or residence.” The protection of the Castle Doctrine is further extended in Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5224 to include your place of work. Thus, for Castle Doctrine purposes, all these places afford you the same protections as your traditional home.
In Kansas, “deadly force” is defined as the application of physical force likely to cause death or great bodily harm to a person. You may use deadly force to stop or prevent imminent (i.e., immediate) deadly force to yourself and others. Deadly force does not include a threat to cause death or great bodily harm, nor does it include the display or production of a weapon in response to an attack or to prevent the imminent threat of bodily harm.
Significantly, if you are in a location covered by the Castle Doctrine, you have no duty to retreat before using force or deadly force.
What If You Are in a Location Not Covered by the Castle Doctrine?
Kansas law also has another doctrine, commonly referred to as “Stand Your Ground.” Under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5230, if you are not engaged in an unlawful activity and are attacked in a place where you have a right to be, then you have no duty to retreat, have the right to stand your ground, and the right to use any force that would be legally justified.
Finally, if you are lawfully exercising the right to defend yourself or others, Kansas law provides that you are immune from criminal prosecution or civil liability in most circumstances.
Keep in mind, even if you are immune from civil liability, you are not immune from someone filing a lawsuit against you. The courthouse doors are always open in Kansas, and you must timely respond to any lawsuit no matter how frivolous.
For any further questions regarding the Castle Doctrine or any other in the State of Kansas, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.