Wisconsin Does Not Have a Stand Your Ground Law: What to Know
If a person broke into your home and you needed to defend yourself, would you get in legal trouble for injuring or killing the intruder? Thanks to Wisconsin’s “castle doctrine” law, a person is legally protected from getting criminal charges for hurting or killing another person under certain circumstances. The state of Wisconsin recognizes the need for people to defend themselves and their property using certain means, such as force or the threat of such force.
Although Wisconsin does not have a “stand your ground” law like many other states, its castle doctrine law gives state residents the privilege to threaten or intentionally use force against another to prevent or terminate what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with their person by another. You may only intentionally use force or the threat of force if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent or terminate the interference.
You may not, however, intentionally use force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless you reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself. Referring to the example above, let’s say the intruder barged into your room, pointed a gun at your face, and yelled, “Open your safe, or I will shoot you.” In this instance, you are at risk of imminent death or great bodily harm, therefore, if you pulled out your gun and fired shots at the intruder, you could avoid criminal charges for injuring or killing them due to the castle doctrine.
Essentially, your “castle” refers to your dwelling, vehicle, or place of business. Thus, the castle doctrine allows you to use force or deadly force to protect yourself in the following two instances:
- The person against whom the force was used was unlawfully and forcibly entering your dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, you were present in the dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, and you knew or reasonably believed that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring.
- The person against whom the force was used was in the actor's dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business after unlawfully and forcibly entering it, the actor was present in the dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, and the actor knew or reasonably believed that the person had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business.
The castle doctrine does not just apply in any situation, however. You cannot use force or deadly force to prevent an unlawful and forcible entry under the following circumstances:
- You were engaged in criminal activity or were using your dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business to further criminal activity at the time.
- The person against whom the force was used was a public safety worker, who entered or attempted to enter your dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business in the performance of his or her official duties. This applies only if at least one of the following applies:
- The public safety worker identified themself to you before you used force.
- You knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter your dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business was a public safety worker.
It’s important to remember that the intruder must have been in the process of breaking into your dwelling, business, or vehicle in order for the castle doctrine to apply. For instance, if you learned that your neighbor broke into your home and stole thousands of dollars worth of your jewelry last weekend, you cannot use force or deadly force against them afterward. You are only allowed to protect your person and property during an unlawful break-in.
Another example of an instance in which the castle doctrine does not apply is if you invited someone into your home and asked them to leave 20 minutes later. Instead of leaving, they remain in your home and continue chatting with you. As much as you want them to leave your home, you most likely could not justify using force or deadly force against them because they did not forcibly enter your home. You invited them. While they may technically be in your home unlawfully, the castle doctrine would not apply.
Duty to Retreat in Wisconsin
A duty to retreat requires a person to make deadly force the “last-resort” option in situations where there is an imminent threat of personal harm. Instead of meeting deadly force with deadly force, a duty to retreat requires a person to make reasonable efforts to avoid confrontation with the threat, whether it be through de-escalation or leaving the area altogether.
Wisconsin does not have an affirmative duty to retreat, however, a jury may be instructed to evaluate whether a person had a feasible opportunity to retreat and whether they knew about such opportunity. For example, the castle doctrine could come in handy if you are on trial for first-degree intentional homicide, as it is considered an affirmative defense that could mitigate, or reduce, the severity of your alleged offense. However, the prosecution may ask the jury to consider whether or not you knew about a feasible opportunity to retreat from using deadly force in order to prevent the mitigation of your charges.
Protecting Your Rights, No Matter Your Situation
At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, we understand that homicide accusations are frightening and nerve-wracking. But remember, they are just accusations and not a conviction. You are innocent until proven guilty, and our attorney will fight tirelessly to help maintain your innocence. We can analyze your case to determine if the castle doctrine can work in your defense, and regardless of its application to your case, our lawyer will invest the time, efforts, and resources necessary to help get your charges reduced or dismissed.
Schedule your consultation online or at (414) 882-8382 today!