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State of the Castle: An Overview of Recent Trends in State Castle Doctrine Legislation and Public Policy

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 34 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2009 Pages: 515-535
Denise Paquette Boots; Jayshree Bihari; Euel Elliott
Date Published
December 2009
21 pages
Since to date there is a lack of criminological research that has focused only on the evolution of "castle doctrine" statutes - the right of individuals to own and use guns in the home ("castle") for personal protection of life and property - this study offers a historical and legal perspective on the etiology of the castle doctrine; analyzes current and pending castle doctrine legislation from 2005 through 2008; and discusses the various political, legal, and criminological implications of these laws.
The legal analysis shows a strong American tradition of embracing self-defense and the rights of law-abiding individuals to protect their person and property from attack. Over time, castle laws have gradually expanded to strengthen both criminal and civil protections. These modern statutes effectively remove the duty of a person to retreat from armed confrontations in specific locations outside the home that have not been traditionally recognized in previous versions. Although Republicans have led the charge in providing energy and enthusiasm for expanded applications of the castle doctrine, Democrats have also provided significant and necessary support in passing castle bills into law. This finding highlights the ability of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to build consensus across party lines in moving castle laws rapidly through State legislatures across the country. Critics of such laws argue that "the castle doctrine laws are so broad . . . That they allow people to kill someone and then tell law enforcement investigators they were afraid for their safety at the time" (Formby, 2006). Recent applications of the rationale of the castle doctrine in criminal justice forums have raised serious questions about the boundaries of the castle doctrine, raised fears of vigilante-style justice, and challenged traditional concepts of what constitutes self-defense. 2 table, 2 notes, and 77 references


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