Castle Doctrine: you may have heard of it recently. In case you did not, or if you did not know what it is, castle doctrine is now the law-of-the-land in the Dairy State and it affects you and your family throughout each day. Where did Castle Doctrine come from? What does it mean? And what do you need to know about it?*

Castle Doctrine is not a modern legal invention. Castle Doctrine as a term was first coined by the English in the 17th century to mean, broadly, that a "man's home is his castle." That is to say, that he enjoys a greater degree of rights and freedoms to protect himself and his family in his home than he would elsewhere. The concept was imported to the colonies when on April 19, 1775 at the battle of Lexington and Concord the British redcoats during their retreat to Boston sacked and plundered many colonial homes. Jason Russell, a 59 year old man with a bad leg, when warned of the rampaging troops coming down the road towards his homestead refused to flee and proclaimed, "An Englishman's house is his castle." He was shot twice and bayoneted eleven times, dying on his own doorstep at the hands of British regulars.

In Wisconsin the law on self-defense generally reads that you may employ lethal force to defend yourself or another if you or they are in reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm. That is a mouthful. To completely break that down would take more space than available, so I suggest you contact an attorney experienced in these matters or better still do that and attend a firearm training course such as one offered by the American Association of Certified Firearm Instructors ( While Wisconsin has no affirmative duty to retreat, meaning you have no strict legal duty to run away before defending yourself, it is a factor that a jury may consider when determining whether you are guilty of homicide if you ever have to use a firearm defensively.
Castle doctrine changes the rules of retreat and when one can use force in their dwelling, workplace, or motor vehicle to provide heightened protections from both criminal prosecution and civil liability if one have a defensive force use.

The court or jury may no longer consider whether the actor (a homeowner in his home, business owner or operator in their business, or motorist in their motor vehicle) had the opportunity to flee. You may now "stand your ground" in these locations. So if someone breaks in the front door of your dwelling, or is in the process of breaking in the front door, you do not need to flee out the back door: instead you may choose to stand your ground and the new law shall presume that you reasonably believed that lethal force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

The new law means that when an actor uses force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm (such as shooting another person) there exists civil immunity, provides a "stand your ground" protection, and it conveys a presumption that the actor, who is otherwise not breaking the law themselves (sorry to anyone dealing drugs from their kitchen), did reasonably believe they were in reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when they knew or reasonably believed that someone unlawfully and forcibly entered their dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business. Translation: you no longer have to wait until that 3am bedroom intruder brandishes a knife at you before employing enough force to stop the threat.

It is important to remember what this does not do: it does not allow a person to use lethal force against an invited dinner guest who remarks that your wife's meatloaf is overdone, or that your beer is too warm. Hopefully that went without saying, and if it came as a surprise then I strongly urge you to contact an attorney sooner rather than later.

Remember: it is far less expensive to take a firearm class and talk to an attorney before you get charged with multiple felonies from an incident that was mishandled. Take the time to protect yourself and your family with more than just a box of ammunition: with knowledge.

DISCLAIMER: This article is NOT intended to be legal advice. You need to consult with an attorney who can make specific recommendations to fit your circumstance.