Defend Your Home
The Castle Doctrine is a legal philosophy – a doctrine rooted in the law – that allows homeowners in Georgia to defend their homes. It’s called the “Castle Doctrine” because homes are seen as castles by the people who own and reside in them: as the king or queen of your “castle”, the law allows you to repel invaders, even by the use of deadly force if necessary.
No Other Option
In times past (and indeed, in many places within the United States now), homeowners did not have the right to defend themselves. Instead, the law required retreat if an assailant trespassed or forcefully entered a home. The only time homeowners were allowed to use force was when no other option remained.
The Castle Doctrine Changed That
The legal doctrine allows homeowners to consider the option of using deadly force without seeking an avenue of escape. Nearly half the American states follow a form of the Castle Doctrine that does not require an individual to seek retreat when in his or her home before using deadly force. Approximately seventeen states still require some form of retreat, rather than the use of force to protect oneself, if an avenue of escape exists.
The Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine is codified in O.C.G.A. § 16-3-23, “Use of force in defense of habitation.” The doctrine extends to cover a person’s “habitation,” meaning a dwelling, vehicle, or place of business. If you are the intended victim of unlawful force or deadly force when you are in your dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, these places are your “castle,” and the law will provide you protection beyond the general rule. In these Castle Doctrine circumstances, the law will justify the use of force or deadly force based upon a person’s reasonable belief that force or deadly force was necessary to defend against force. This justification applies to you when someone “unlawfully and with force” enters, or attempts to enter, your home, motor vehicle, or business. Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” statute, O.C.G.A. §16-3-23.1, complements the Castle Doctrine by allowing those in their home the right to protect themselves without first seeking a place to hide.