Castle Doctrine Law: Georgia

In the realm of self-defense law, the Castle Doctrine is a concept that codifies that a defender has no obligation to retreat from their home and typically their business or vehicle when confronted with an intruder or someone who would attempt to harm them while occupying any of the above.

flag of the state of Georgia

Formerly a fairly contentious legal precept, it has gone on to widespread acceptance throughout the United States either in statutory law or due to case precedent.

Georgia is one such state where residents enjoy robust protection under Castle Doctrine as enshrined in state law.

Unlike some other states, Georgia has an entire section regarding Castle Doctrine that plainly states what rights a citizen has to defend their home and under what circumstances, leaving very little room for ambiguity.

In the rest of this article we will summarize the most important points of Georgia’s Castle Doctrine law and also provide the relevant State statutes at the end.

Fast Facts

  • Georgia permits the use of force including deadly force in defense of a domicile with no obligation to retreat prior to the use of that force so long as it is justified under the law.
  • When using lethal force to halt an unlawful entry upon a domicile that is occurring or had immediately occurred, the unlawful entry must have been done in a violent or tumultuous manner, or entry otherwise done with the intent by the intruder of committing violence against anyone residing inside the structure.
  • Lethal force may also be used with no obligation to retreat if it is employed to stop the commission of a forcible felony against the defender or someone else.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Georgia

Georgia Castle Doctrine States that a defender may use force, including lethal force, against an assailant, who has forcibly entered, is in the process of forcibly entering, or had immediately prior forcibly entered any “habitation” with the intention of harming the occupants residing inside or with the intention of committing any forcible felony.

Under Georgia law, a “habitation” is defined as any dwelling, motor vehicle or place of business and that means that Castle Doctrine applies to any of the above so long as it is occupied by one or more persons.

At no time is a person obligated to retreat from their home, motor vehicle or place of business when under such threat of violence or the commission of a forcible felony.

Restrictions

It is important to clarify that one may not use lethal force and self-defense of a habitation if unlawful entry is not occurring in a violent or tumultuous manner and the defender cannot articulate a reasonable fear that violence or another forcible felony will imminently be committed against the occupants of the habitation.

Said another way, if someone can just walk right into your property, be it through an unlocked door, open window or something else that they don’t need to force or break, you must assess their intentions accurately before defending yourself with lethal force.

Breaking and entering into a habitation speaks for itself, and that is why any defender who is confronting a forceful invader to their habitation acts with justification from the outset when employing lethal force.

If you are wise, you will keep all doors, windows and other portals into your home, vehicle and business securely locked against trespassers at all times.

Assessment

Georgia is possessed of an excellent all-around set of self-defense laws that protect citizens from criminal aggression, and this definitely applies to their robust and easy to understand Castle Doctrine statutes.

So long as a defender is occupying their home, vehicle, place of business or some other dwelling they have no obligation to retreat and may presume a fear of death or great bodily injury when using force and self-defense so long as someone that is forcibly entering the home or has entered with the intention of doing harm to the occupants or committing a forcible felony therein.

Relevant Georgia Castle Doctrine Statutes

16-3-21. Use of force in defense of self or others; evidence of belief that force was necessary in murder or manslaughter prosecution

(a) A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force; however, except as provided in Code Section 16-3-23, a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(b) A person is not justified in using force under the circumstances specified in subsection (a) of this Code section if he:

(1) Initially provokes the use of force against himself with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;

(2) Is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony; or

(3) Was the aggressor or was engaged in a combat by agreement unless he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to such other person his intent to do so and the other, notwithstanding, continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful force.

(c) Any rule, regulation, or policy of any agency of the state or any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, or policy of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state which is in conflict with this Code section shall be null, void, and of no force and effect.

(d) In a prosecution for murder or manslaughter, if a defendant raises as a defense a justification provided by subsection (a) of this Code section, the defendant, in order to establish the defendant’s reasonable belief that the use of force or deadly force was immediately necessary, may be permitted to offer:

(1) Relevant evidence that the defendant had been the victim of acts of family violence or child abuse committed by the deceased, as such acts are described in Code Sections 19-13-1 and 19-15-1, respectively; and

(2) Relevant expert testimony regarding the condition of the mind of the defendant at the time of the offense, including those relevant facts and circumstances relating to the family violence or child abuse that are the bases of the expert’s opinion.

16-3-23. Use of force in defense of habitation

A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation; however, such person is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:

(1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner and he or she reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence;

(2) That force is used against another person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using such force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred; or

(3) The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

6-3-23.1. No duty to retreat prior to use of force in self-defense

A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, relating to the use of force in defense of self or others, Code Section 16-3-23, relating to the use of force in defense of a habitation, or Code Section 16-3-24, relating to the use of force in defense of property other than a habitation, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force as provided in said Code sections, including deadly force.

16-3-24. Use of force in defense of property other than a habitation

(a) A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with real property other than a habitation or personal property:

(1) Lawfully in his possession;

(2) Lawfully in the possession of a member of his immediate family; or

(3) Belonging to a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect.

(b) The use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to prevent trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with real property other than a habitation or personal property is not justified unless the person using such force reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

16-3-24.1. Habitation and personal property defined

As used in Code Sections 16-3-23 and 16-3-24, the term “habitation” means any dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business, and “personal property” means personal property other than a motor vehicle.

16-3-24.2. Immunity from prosecution; exception

A person who uses threats or force in accordance with Code Section 16-3-21, 16-3-23, 16-3-23.1, or 16-3-24 shall be immune from criminal prosecution therefor unless in the use of deadly force, such person utilizes a weapon the carrying or possession of which is unlawful by such person under Part 2 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of this title.

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