Having an intruder into your home or property is a disturbing thing. Many people would naturally get scared, but wouldn’t just let the intruder rob their home or attack them. This is how homeowners end up shooting the intruders (in case they have a gun at home).
The question is – will you be criminally charged with assault or murder if you do this? Could the intruder (in case they survive) sue you for shooting them?
Everything depends on the circumstances.
The “Castle Doctrine” is the first legal protection you may have. There’s another doctrine ‘Stand Your Ground’ that could give you some protection (this varies from state to state). Both these doctrines are part of the wide umbrella of self-defense.
If you wonder if it’s legal to shoot an intruder, the answer will depend on the fact whether you were shooting in self-defense and if these doctrines apply.
It’s best to hire a New Mexico criminal defense attorney right ahead since such cases aren’t easy and you shouldn’t try to go through them without legal help.
Is It Self-Defense If I Shoot an Intruder?
According to the law, everyone has the right to defend themselves with a reasonable response. Self-defense can be a legal excuse if you are charged with murder or assault.
To use self-defense as a protection against a violent crime charge, in most jurisdictions you should:
- Not be the aggressor;
- Use just enough force to combat the threat and no more (for instance, you can’t use a gun if it’s a fistfight);
- Have a reasonable belief that force was needed;
- Have a rational belief that the attack is coming;
- Retreat (if you can).
Difference Between the Castle Doctrine and Self-Defense?
The Castle Doctrine rose from old English Common Law that holds that your home is your castle which therefore gives you the right to defend it. This doctrine is an offshoot of self-defense and eliminates the requirement to retreat. Most states have a variation of the Castle Doctrine in their laws.
The prime difference between self-defense and the Castle Doctrine is that you don’t have the duty to retreat and there’s a presumption that deadly force was needed.
The state laws can allow you to use deadly physical force and it’s legally presumed to be justified if an intruder is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering a dwelling or residence. Some states even allow the use of deadly force if there is an unlawful and forceful entry into a business or occupied vehicle.
In New Mexico, you don’t have the duty to retreat if there’s a threat or attack. You may even use deadly force to protect yourself or another in the face of an immediate threat of a felony, serious injury, or death. When using deadly force it must be used in a way that a reasonable person would have.
The term “Castle Doctrine” doesn’t exist like a phrase in New Mexico law, but the principle of the Doctrine is present. The Castle Doctrine in New Mexico will justify the use of deadly force in the situation where:
- The place where the killing happened was being used as the defendant’s habitation;
- The defendant saw that the commission of the violent felony was immediately at hand and that it was necessary to kill the intruder to prevent the commission of the violent felony;
- Any reasonable person in the same circumstances as the defendant would have done the same thing the defendant did.
All of the above conditions must exist to have the legal defense work in court for you. Even if all the conditions exist, it’s not a question of fact for the jury to decide at trial. This means that even if you were defending yourself and your home, you could still end up charged with a crime.
You will have to convince the jury that you used deadly force but you were legally justified to do that.
These cases are complex and often may end in a completely unexpected way. This is why a skilled criminal defense attorney is a must. You may believe that you did the right thing to protect yourself and your family and you may believe that it’s crystal clear that it was a defense, but the jury will have the last word.
To avoid risking your freedom and facing serious charges, be sure to consult our criminal defense attorneys at FBD Law. Schedule your free consultation today; we’re here for you.