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Protecting Your Castle

Recently,  A husband and wife have been charged with unlawful use of a weapon for pointing guns at demonstrators outside their home in St Louis, Missouri.  Lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey drew guns on protesters marching through the grounds of their $1.15m mansion last month.  The couple said they armed themselves because they felt threatened.  But St Louis’ top prosecutor said their actions had risked creating violence at an otherwise peaceful protest, even though those individuals had busted through a locked gate and onto private property.  Therefore, Goldfinch Winslow Law Firm was asked a question by some great friends and clients, “What can we do to protect ourselves and our family?”

There are basically three types of self-defenses:

  1. Stand Your Ground: No duty to retreat from the situation before resorting to deadly force; not limited to your home, place of work, etc.
  2. Castle Doctrine: No duty to retreat before using deadly force if you are in your home or yard (some states include a place of work and occupied vehicles)
  3. Duty to Retreat: Duty to retreat from a threatening situation if you can do so with complete safety.

In this Blog, Attorney Allie Argoe details below how South Carolina views your ability to defend yourself and others:

How would you react if someone were breaking into your home? The most common answer is “they better be ready to meet my best friends, Smith & Wesson!” While you and your buddies describe how you would each protect your homes during target practice at the shooting range the real question remains, when do you have the right to protect your home with deadly force and not face criminal charges for doing so?
In South Carolina we have what some people refer to as Stand Your Ground. It is actually called the Castle Doctrine or the Protection of Persons and Property Act Section 16-11-410. Under the Protection of Persons and Property Act you could be immune from criminal prosecution.  If you have reason to believe a person is unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has entered, your home or vehicle, or is attempting to remove a person from your home against their will you have the right to use deadly force to protect your property and family free from criminal prosecution.

Now that sounds like you have the right to shoot anyone entering your property without your permission, however, there are a few caveats to this immunity. For instance, a person cannot shoot someone for merely being present on their property. One example would be if a law enforcement officer, within his official capacity, enters your home and you reasonably should have known they were law enforcement, you will not be immune from criminal charges if you use deadly force. There are other exceptions to the rule as well which can be found in Section 16-11-450 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.

We all want to believe that we would not be charged criminally for protecting what lawfully belongs to us. But the truth of the matter is, it happens all the time. Whether you are charged for using deadly force against someone breaking into your home is ultimately up to the State of South Carolina. If you find yourself facing criminal charges for protecting your castle do not hesitate to call us at Goldfinch Winslow. It could never happen to you until it does.

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