We’ve all heard the saying “a man’s home is his castle” and laws throughout history have confirmed that within your home you have a right to safety and security. The laws have also acknowledged a man’s right to protect his home, property, and his family.
The laws that confirm these rights are often called “Castle Doctrine” or “Defense of Habitation Laws” they designate a persons home and sometimes areas that are extensions of their home as a place that the person may in certain circumstances use force and even deadly force to defend against an intruder.
As early as 43 BC the Roman philosipher and statesman, Cicero recognized a man’s right to protect his family and home. In an address to the priest he said, “What is there more holy, what is there more carefully fenced round with every description of religious respect, than the house of every individual citizen?”
In the 17th century we find the beginning of the phase we all know when Sir Edward Coke phased English Common Laws in his The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628 as, “an Englishman’s home is his castle”. That phrase recognized a right to protect home and family and was carried to the “new world” and rephrased as, “a man’s home is his castle”.
The idea that a man has a God given right to protect his home and family was supported by Matthew Henry, the 18th century Presbyterian minister and biblical commentator when he said, “A man’s house is his castle, and God’s law, as well as man’s, sets a guard upon it; he that assaults it does so at his peril.”
And finally In Book 4, Chapter 16 of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, he states that the laws “leave him (the inhabitant) the natural right of killing the aggressor (the burglar)”.
As societies began to codify their laws they continue to acknowledge a right to protect home and family. These laws have become commonly refered to as “Castle Doctrine”
Castle Doctrine Laws in the United States
Castle Doctrine Laws have been adopted by many states in various forms and was an influence on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which states,
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”
Some states apply the “Castle Doctrine Laws” only to the home while others extend those rights to business, automobiles and property. “Castle laws” remove the duty to retreat before using deadly force when one is in their home or in some U.S. states just simply where one can legally be.
Mississippi and Castle Doctrine Law (MS Code 97-3-15)
In March 2006, Governor Haley Barbour (R) signed SB2426 (As Passed the Senate) – 2006 Castle Doctrine Law, a “Castle Doctrine” and self-defense reform law sponsored by Senator Charlie Ross (R) and Senator Ralph Doxey (R). This measure created a presumption that if someone is breaking into your home, occupied vehicle or place of business, they are there to cause you serious bodily harm or death, and you may use any manner of force to protect yourself and your family. The bill also codified that you have no “duty to retreat” from a violent criminal attack if you are not the initial aggressor and you’re in a place where you have a right to be. It also contains certain safeguards from criminal prosecution for victims who justifiably use deadly force to protect themselves and provides for immunity from civil liability in those cases.
The Mississippi Law reads as follows:
97-3-15. (1) The killing of a human being by the act, procurement or omission of another shall be justifiable in the following cases:
(e) When committed by any person in resisting any attempt unlawfully to kill such person or to commit any felony upon him, or upon or in any dwelling, occupied vehicle or the building of a business during hours when the business is closed to the public in which such person shall be;
(f) When committed in the lawful defense of one’s own person or any other human being, where there shall be reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury, and there shall be imminent danger of such design being accomplished
Mississippi Law defines a dwelling as: a building or conveyance of any kind that has a roof over it, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, including a tent, that is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, including any attached porch;
Clarence T. “Gup” Guthrie III an attorney in Mississippi summed up Mississippi’s Castle Doctrine on his website,
“If you read this carefully you will see that Mississippi takes the Castle Doctrine to the extreme, not only allowing you to defend your home (porches especially), but also your car, your place of employment, or practically anywhere you have a legal right to be. Also, unlike some states, you do not have to retreat before you take action to defend yourself. Last, but not least, the law added civil immunity (you can’t be sued) if you are forced to defend yourself in accordance with this law.”
I am proud to be a Mississippian.