The Castle Doctrine in Wisconsin

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Many people are charged with crimes that actually fall under the umbrella of self-defense—and if it’s happened to you, you may need to speak with a criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee who understands the law and can help ensure the best possible outcome in your case.

What Self-Defense Laws Does Wisconsin Have? 

In 2005, Florida became the first state to pass what would become known as the Stand Your Ground law, which effectively eliminated the “duty to retreat” component from the laws governing self-defense and the use of deadly force. 

Shortly thereafter, 22 additional states followed suit. 

Wisconsin was not one of them.

Six years later, after a slew of debates over a Wisconsin resident’s right to protect themselves, their loved ones or their property from an assailant, Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature enacted two laws which addressed the legal parameters of self-defense as well as the corresponding civil and criminal liability issues associated with the justifiable use of force. 

The latter issue was addressed by the introduction of Wisconsin Act 93, also known as the “trespasser liability act” in December, 2011. In addressing the issue of liability, the law provides that, with certain exceptions, the possessor of real property owes no duty of care to a trespasser. Regarding the actual use of force in self-defense, Wisconsin Act 94 introduced what is known as “Castle Doctrine.”

While Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine both refer to a person’s right not to retreat when threatened with bodily injury, these terms are not interchangeable. 

The distinction is that in the case of Castle Doctrine, the right to use force causing injury or death is limited to real property, which in most cases refers to one’s own home, vehicle or place of business. 

Under previous laws governing self-defense, the primary consideration in justifying the use of force was in determining whether or not the opportunity to retreat, or escape the situation existed. Under Castle Doctrine, the “retreat” variable is no longer part of the equation. In effect, the law is now more a question of property, the reasonable determination of an imminent threat, and the key concept of a proportionate response.

So, what is meant by “proportionate response,” and how does play into the legal aspects of Castle Doctrine?

In short, deadly force is considered to be any use of force which is likely to cause death or bodily harm. In proving a proportionate response it is imperative that you are able to demonstrate that the threat against you or a loved one was not only imminent, but also in defense against an act that was equally intended to cause death or bodily harm to yourself or the loved one in question. 

Put more simply, if an intruder enters your property and pelts you with a tomato, this does not give you the right to shoot them. 

On the surface, the notion of a proportionate response might seem rather self-explanatory. But it is on exactly this point that the controversy regarding the application of Wisconsin Act 94 has been directed. 

Regardless of any advances in legislation and jurisprudence, many feel that human nature still dictates that a significant opportunity for error of personal judgement exists, and moreover, that when victim and criminal collide in a traumatic situation of unknown outcome, the chances of acting mistakenly or irrationally are dramatically increased.

Did You Defend Yourself or Your Property From Crime?

It may be a good idea for you to get in touch with a Milwaukee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

If you need help, call us at 414-383-6700 or get in touch with us online. We’ll be able to give you case-specific legal advice and help you get the best possible outcome.

Carlos Gamino

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Castle Doctrine – Milwaukee Self-Defense Lawyer
By Carlos Gamino

Many people are charged with crimes that actually fall under the umbrella of self-defense—and if it’s happened to you, you may need to speak with a criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee who understands the law and can help ensure the best possible outcome in your case.
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