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Do you have a duty to retreat?

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2022 | Criminal Defense

If someone threatens you or attacks you, what should your first response be? Can you meet that force with an equal amount of force and protect yourself, or do you need to try to retreat and avoid an altercation before you do so? 

For instance, say that you are in your home when someone breaks in. You obviously have a legal right to be in your own house. Do you need to try to exit the house and call the police, or can you use force against the person who broke inside? 

You do not have to flee if you are not the aggressor 

One of the main stipulations is whether or not you were the aggressor. If you caused the confrontation, then you may need to retreat to avoid escalating things. However, in the example above, you did nothing to cause it. Under the Castle Doctrine, you certainly have a right to protect yourself and your family. You can use force to do so if necessary. You do not have to flee, and you have no duty to retreat. 

However, it is also very important to remember that this only applies within your own home. There was a famous case of a man who left his house to chase teenagers who’d come onto his property. He then fired a gun at their fleeing car. He would have been able to use force if the teens had come into his house and he was standing his ground, but pursuing them as they drove away was seen as a step too far. 

Things happen very quickly in situations like this, and it can be chaotic. If you have been arrested and accused of a crime when you think you were legally protecting yourself, you need to know what defense options you have.