Today I want to talk to you about the Castle Doctrine.
What is the “Castle Doctrine?”
Well, the “Castle Doctrine” has to do with whether or not you have a duty to retreat in your home. Now let’s distinguish Castle Doctrine from Stand Your Ground. Stand Your Ground is, “Do you have a duty to retreat outside your home?” New Jersey does not have Stand Your Ground laws, but New Jersey does have Castle Doctrine law. However, it has details that you need to understand.
Even though New Jersey has the Castle Doctrine, which means you do not have to retreat when inside your own home, there are certain rules that apply.
You cannot be the initial aggressor that caused the situation to take place. If you’re the initial aggressor, then a duty to retreat exists. Also, if you can retreat with complete safety, then again, you have the duty imposed because you could escape with complete safety.
If you are not the initial aggressor and you cannot escape by way of complete safety, then you do not have to retreat. Now, of course you have to maintain all the other rules of using deadly force; you have to be justified in your use of deadly force, and all the same concepts of self-defense still apply.
Now, there’s a very interesting case called State vs. Gartland. In Gartland, the defendant was a woman who was a victim of domestic violence and she was attacked by a person who cohabitated with her. And one of the exceptions to the Castle Doctrine is that the need to retreat does apply if someone is a cohabitant or lives in the house with you. Then, in fact, you do have to retreat.
And in this case, even though this woman was a victim of domestic abuse, she still had a duty to retreat because it was a cohabitant. So, be aware of these rules.
The essence of New Jersey’s law is that under the Castle Doctrine, you do not have a duty to retreat.
If you have any more questions about the Castle Doctrine, feel free to call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.