Castle Doctrine Law – Arkansas

Castle doctrine is a concept in self-defense law throughout the United States that asserts a defender has no obligation to attempt to retreat from their home or residence when confronting an intruder who has unlawfully entered their home, and furthermore is acting with the presumption under the law that lethal force is necessary to stop such a threat should such an unlawful, forcible entry be made.

flag of Arkansas

Although reasonably common throughout history in the US as a concept, it is only fairly lately that most states have moved to reinforce and codify this eminently reasonable law in their statutes.

Arkansas is one such place that benefits from strong self-defense laws at the outset, and has a functional castle doctrine statute to further protect citizens from predation by home invaders or anyone else who would attempt to harm them at their place of residence.

This article will give you an overview of the most important components of the castle doctrine law in Arkansas, and make sure you stick around to check out the included state statutes that have recently been amended below.

Fast Facts

  • Arkansas justifies the use of lethal force and self-defense so long as the defender does so to prevent the threat of great bodily injury or death.
  • As long as the defender is in any place they legally, lawfully have a right to be there is no obligation to retreat, and this naturally includes one’s home or other dwelling, be it temporary or permanent.
  • One may not claim castle doctrine as a justification for the use of lethal force in self-defense if one is committing or furthering the commission of any crime within the structure or dwelling.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Arkansas

Arkansas has one of the broadest possible interpretations of castle doctrine law, stating simply that a person who has a reasonable belief that they will experience great bodily injury or death or that someone else will experience great bodily injury or death as the result of the unlawful, forcible actions of another is justified in using lethal force in self-defense if it is necessary to prevent the unlawful force.

Furthermore, if they are in any place they have a legal, lawful right to be there is no obligation to retreat.

Restrictions

Although broadly inclusive and it’s terminology regarding the location where the use of defensive force takes place, it is worth noting that Arkansas law specifically states that the defender must be able to articulate a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury prior to the use of lethal force in self-defense.

It does not say that the unlawful force being used against the defender must be underway or ongoing, as defensive force may be used to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony or the use of any unlawful force against the defender.

As always, it is definitely in your best interest if you can clearly articulate what the threat was prior to using any force in self-defense, but particularly before using lethal force!

Assessment

Arkansas law states that a person may use force and self-defense, including lethal force, against the imminent or ongoing use of a lawful force against themselves or someone else if that force entails the risk of great bodily injury or death, and that’s so long as a person is in any place they have a legal, lawful right to be there is no obligation to retreat prior to using defensive force.

This naturally includes a person’s home, temporary dwelling or lodging, place of business or vehicle.

Relevant Arkansas Castle Doctrine Statutes

5-2-606. Use of physical force in defense of a person.

(a)(1) A person is justified in using physical force upon another person to defend himself or herself or a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and the person may use a degree of physical force that he or she reasonably believes to be necessary.

(2) However, the person may not use deadly physical force except as provided in § 5-2-607.

(b) A person is not justified in using physical force upon another person if:

(1) With purpose to cause physical injury or death to the other person, the person provokes the use of unlawful physical force by the other person;

(2)(A) The person is the initial aggressor.

(B) However, the initial aggressor’s use of physical force upon another person is justifiable if:

(i) The initial aggressor in good faith withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his or her purpose to withdraw from the encounter; and

(ii) The other person continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful physical force; or

(3) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not authorized by law.

(c) A person who uses or threatens to use physical force as otherwise permitted under this subchapter does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use the physical force if the person is:

(1) Lawfully present in the location;

(2) Not engaged in criminal activity that gives rise to the need to use physical force; and

(3) Not engaged in any activity in furtherance of a criminal gang, organization, or enterprise as defined under § 5-74-103.

21 SECTION 2. Arkansas Code § 5-2-607 is amended to read as follows:

22 5-2-607. Use of deadly physical force in defense of a person.

(a) A person is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person if the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or about to commit a felony involving physical force or violence;

(2) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force; or

(3) Imminently endangering the person’s life or imminently about to victimize the person as described in § 9-15-103 from the continuation of a pattern of domestic abuse.

(b) A person may not use deadly physical force in self-defense if the person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force:

(1)(A) By retreating.

(B) However, a person is not required to retreat if the person is:

(i) Unable to retreat with complete safety;

(ii) In the person’s dwelling or on the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling and was not the original aggressor; or

(iii) A law enforcement officer or a person assisting at the direction of a law enforcement officer; or

(2) With complete safety by surrendering possession of property to a person claiming a lawful right to possession of the property.

(b) A person is not required to retreat before using deadly physical force if the person:

(1) Is lawfully present at the location where deadly physical force is used;

(2) Has a reasonable belief that the person against whom the deadly physical force is used is imminently threatening to cause death or serious physical injury to the person or another person;

(3) Except as provided under § 5-2-606(b)(2)(B), is not the initial aggressor and has not provoked the person against whom the deadly physical force is used;

(4) Is not committing a felony offense of possession of a firearm by certain persons, § 5-73-103, with the firearm used to employ the deadly physical force, unless the person is in or at the person’s dwelling or in the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling;

(5) Is not engaged in criminal activity that gives rise to the need for the use of deadly physical force at the time the deadly physical force is used; and

(6) Is not engaged in any activity in furtherance of a criminal gang, organization, or enterprise as defined in § 5-74-103.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) “Curtilage” means the land adjoining a dwelling that is convenient for residential purposes and habitually used for residential purposes, but not necessarily enclosed, and includes an outbuilding that is directly and intimately connected with the dwelling and in close proximity to the dwelling; and

(2) “Domestic abuse” means:

(A) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members; or

(B) Any sexual conduct between family or household members, whether minors or adults, that constitutes a crime under the laws of this state.

SECTION 3. Arkansas Code § 5-2-615 is amended to read as follows:

5-2-615. Use of physical force by a pregnant woman in defense of her

unborn child.

(a) As used in this section:

(1) “Pregnant” means the female reproductive condition of having an unborn child in the female’s body; and

(2) “Unborn child” means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.

(b) A pregnant woman is justified in using physical force or deadly physical force against another person to protect her unborn child if, under the circumstances as the pregnant woman reasonably believes them to be, she would be justified under § 5-2-606 or § 5-2-607 in using physical force or deadly physical force to protect herself against the unlawful physical force or unlawful deadly physical force she reasonably believes to be threatening her unborn child.

(c) The justification for using physical force or deadly physical force against another person to protect a pregnant woman’s unborn child is not available if:

(1) The the use of the physical force or deadly physical force for protection was used by a person other than the pregnant woman; or

(2)(A) The use of the deadly physical force for protection would

not be allowed under § 5-2-607(b).

(B) However, the pregnant woman is not obligated to retreat or surrender possession of property as described in § 5-2-607(b) unless the pregnant woman knows she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force and simultaneously ensure the complete safety of her unborn child.

5-2-601. Definitions

As used in this subchapter:

(1) “Common carrier” means any vehicle used to transport for hire any member of the public;

(2) “Deadly physical force” means physical force that under the circumstances in which it is used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury;

(3) “Dwelling” means an enclosed space that is used or intended to be used as a human habitation, home, or residence on a temporary or permanent basis;

(4) “Minor” means any person under eighteen (18) years of age;

(5)

(A) “Occupiable structure” means a vehicle, building, or other structure:

(i) Where any person lives or carries on a business or other calling;

(ii) Where people assemble for a purpose of business, government, education, religion, entertainment, or public transportation; or

(iii) That is customarily used for overnight accommodation of a person whether or not a person is actually present.

(B) “Occupiable structure” includes each unit of an occupiable structure divided into a separately occupied unit;

(6) “Physical force” means:

(A) Any bodily impact, restraint, or confinement; or

(B) The threat of any bodily impact, restraint, or confinement;

(7) “Premises” means:

(A) An occupiable structure; or

(B) Any real property;

(8) “Unlawful physical force” means physical force that is employed without the consent of the person against whom it is directed and the employment of the physical force constitutes a criminal offense or tort or would constitute a criminal offense or tort except for a defense other than the defense of justification or privilege; and

(9) “Vehicle” means any craft or device designed for the transportation of a person or property across land or water or through the air.

5-2-614. Use of Reckless or Negligent Force

(a) When a person believes that the use of physical force is necessary for any purpose justifying that use of physical force under this subchapter but the person is reckless or negligent either in forming that belief or in employing an excessive degree of physical force, the justification afforded by this subchapter is unavailable in a prosecution for an offense for which recklessness or negligence suffices to establish a culpable mental state.

(b) When a person is justified under this subchapter in using physical force but he or she recklessly or negligently injures or creates a substantial risk of injury to a third party, the justification afforded by this subchapter is unavailable in a prosecution for the recklessness or negligence toward the third party.

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