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Does Wisconsin Law Follow the “Castle Doctrine?”

Posted on in Criminal Law

Waukesha County Criminal Defense AttorneysSome recent high-profile news stories have raised questions about when people may use firearms in self-defense or to defend their homes against intruders. In Missouri, a man shot and wounded a teenager who came to his door, and in New York, a man shot and killed a young woman who was in a vehicle that mistakenly drove onto his driveway. These cases have raised questions about when deadly force is appropriate and when people may or may not face criminal charges for acting in self-defense. Wisconsin residents may need to understand when they can use firearms or other weapons to defend themselves, their families, or their property.

Wisconsin Laws Addressing Self-Defense

Like some other states, Wisconsin follows the "castle doctrine," which allows for the use of force against a person who has entered someone's property unlawfully. Specifically, the laws state that a person has the privilege to use deadly force or threaten to do so to defend themselves against imminent death or great bodily harm. When someone is in their home, a vehicle they own, or their place of business, and they believe that a person is attempting to commit an unlawful forcible entry, the law presumes that a person believed that the intentional use of deadly force was necessary to protect themselves or others.

Under the castle doctrine, Wisconsin residents may take whatever actions they believe are necessary to protect the safety of themselves and their family members and prevent people from unlawfully entering or damaging their property. At the time of an incident, a person must be in their home, vehicle, or business, and they must know or reasonably believe that someone had unlawfully entered or attempted to enter their property. "Stand your ground" provisions also apply in these situations, and a court will not consider whether a person had the opportunity to flee before using deadly force against an intruder.

Wisconsin law also allows for the use of force in self-defense in other situations, although fewer protections may apply to people who are not on their own property. Force may be used to prevent battery or other actions that could cause a person to suffer harm, although a court may consider whether a person could have retreated or taken other actions to avoid a confrontation. Deadly force will generally only be authorized if a person believes that it is necessary to prevent death or serious injuries. Force may also be used in the defense of others, and the same protections apply to a person who reasonably believes that their actions are necessary to prevent injuries to third parties.

When a person uses self-defense, they will not only be allowed to use force against a person who intends to commit harm but they may be protected from prosecution if others are accidentally injured. For example, if a person uses a gun to defend themselves against someone who tries to break into their vehicle, but a stray bullet strikes someone nearby, this may not be considered to be a criminal offense. However, these protections will not apply in cases where a person's actions may be considered first-degree or second-degree reckless homicide or homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon.

Contact Our Waukesha County Criminal Defense Attorneys

While Wisconsin law allows people to use self-defense to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their property, there are some cases where a person may still face criminal charges related to the use of deadly force. In these situations, securing representation from an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer is crucial. At Bucher, Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP, we can help you protect your rights and defend against criminal charges, and we will work to resolve your criminal case successfully. To set up a free consultation, contact our office today at 262-232-6699.


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