Wisconsin's Legislature Takes Up Castle Doctrine Bills

By:  Ann Shibler
09/29/2011
       
Wisconsin's Legislature Takes Up Castle Doctrine Bills

The Wisconsin State Legislature will take up the Castle Doctrine in October.

For those interested in protecting the right of self-defense and an individual’s immunity from unjust prosecution when deadly force is used to stop an aggressor who has illegally entered a residence, the Castle Doctrine is a good solution. The term comes right out of English common law and is based on the sovereignty of an individual citizen and the right of private property. As king of his own castle, a man has the inherent right to defend his property, his life, and his family’s lives with deadly force if necessary.

The Wisconsin State Legislature will take up the Castle Doctrine in October. Currently the proposed self-defense bill would cover a dwelling, business and vehicle. However, according to some legislators and those skilled in the subtler nuances of the right of self-defense, a more comprehensive protection should be in place. In particular, one should be able to defend oneself any place one may legally be physically present.

Then there should also be, inserted into the language of the bill, a statement that says a defender may “stand his ground with no requirement to attempt to retreat.”  This is a necessary clarification to further protect citizens who must make split-second decisions in what they perceive to be a tense life-and-death situation.

Recently in the state of Wisconsin a homeowner was awakened by noise and discovered an intruder in his attached garage.  After telling the intruder that he was the homeowner with a gun and the intruder needed to leave, the intruder challenged the homeowner by taking steps toward him saying he too, had a gun. The homeowner responded by shooting the intruder twice, killing him. Immediately the question of whether this was a case of cold-blooded murder or self defense in a home invasion situation came up because it was discovered that the intruder was not armed, and the defender apparently didn’t take steps to retreat.

It didn’t take long to realize that the intruder had previous convictions for car theft, various burglaries, and child sexual assault. Of course, the homeowner could have no way of knowing these things, and a home invasion situation is no time to initiate a chat about the intruder’s background and intentions. Currently the District Attorney from the county in which the home invasion took place is reviewing the case for possible prosecution of the homeowner.

With the Castle Doctrine in place, there would be no prosecution of the homeowner, period. And as Attorney Anthony Cotton, who sits on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said, “To prosecute this case will send the wrong message — i.e. that a homeowner cannot use deadly force unless he or she is actually being attacked.... If this case is prosecuted it will also have a chilling effect on the primary purpose of gun ownership — namely self-protection within the home.” Cotton also stated, “If this homeowner is prosecuted it would embolden future criminals, giving them the confidence and assurance that homeowners are largely without the ability to protect themselves and their families.”

Let’s not embolden future criminals, but return to the protections that citizens for centuries knew and understood — a man has a right to protect himself and his family without asking questions and without retreating, when threatened. Wisconsin AB 69 and SB 79 would enshrine the Castle Doctrine in Wisconsin State law.

If you live in Wisconsin, you can contact your state legislators and let them know you are in full support of the Castle Doctrine.  Also urge them to make the necessary changes to the text of the bill that would ensure a defender may “stand his ground with no requirement to attempt to retreat,” not just in his home or vehicle, but anywhere the citizen is legally present. Such legislation would put criminals bent on misdeeds on notice that the tide is turning.  They’ll think twice about entering dwellings knowing home defenders now have the advantage.

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