Metro-Detroit Criminal Lawyer: Michigan’s “Castle Doctrine”


    In 2006, Michigan adopted the “Castle Doctrine” which loosely means a “man’s home is his castle and he has the right to defend it”. The law is found in MCL 780.951. The Law states (in part): 

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), it is a rebuttable presumption in a civil or criminal case that an individual who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force under section 2 of the self-defense act has an honest and reasonable belief that imminent death of, sexual assault of, or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another individual will occur if both of the following apply:

(a) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used is in the process of breaking and entering a dwelling or business premises or committing home invasion or has broken and entered a dwelling or business premises or committed home invasion and is still present in the dwelling or business premises, or is unlawfully attempting to remove another individual from a dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle against his or her will.

(b) The individual using deadly force or force other than deadly force honestly and reasonably believes that the individual is engaging in conduct described in subdivision (a).

     So what does this mean? It means you no longer have to retreat from your own home and you no longer have to worry about the person breaking into your home suing you if you use deadly force. The law creates a presumption that you can use deadly force if you have an honest a reasonable belief that you are in danger of, 

1) Imminent death;

2) Great bodily harm; and/or

3) Sexual assault to yourself or another person.

If another person is breaking into your home or business, or unlawfully trying to remove you from your home, you can use deadly force. However there are some constraints and the presumption will not apply in these circumstances:

1) Someone who has a legal right to be in the dwelling or business and there is no a PPO or other protective order against that person

2) The individual removed or being removed from the dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle is a child or grandchild of, or is otherwise in the lawful custody of or under the lawful guardianship of, the individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used. 

3) You are in the commission of a crime yourself.

4) Law enforcement who enter your premises in the performance of his or her official duties.

5) Your spouse, former spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, former girlfriend/boyfriend, baby momma/baby daddy, resident or former resident, and the person using deadly force has a history of domestic violence as the aggressor.

     If none of the 5 above constraints apply, then you will have the benefit of the doubt in a court of law . That means the prosecutor will have to show evidence that you were not in fear of imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault. Remember, you must actually believe any of these three threats exist and it must be reasonable under the circumstances. That means a jury could decide, after hearing all the facts, what a reasonable person would have done in your situation. This is why it is important to present the facts carefully to a jury.

     If you acted in self-defense in your home or business, and are still charged, it is extremely important to hire an attorney that practices in criminal law to prepare your defense and prepare for trial. 

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