Castle Doctrine Law – Idaho

Castle doctrine laws are an important concept that all students of self-defense should be aware of.

flag of Idaho

Castle doctrine states, in short, that a person is allowed to use force and defense of themselves, their families and any other occupants of their home or other dwelling should an intruder be attempting to harm anyone within.

Furthermore, most castle doctrine laws presume that the defenders act reasonably and with fear of death or great bodily injury under those specific circumstances.

Idaho can definitely be commended for sturdy and thoughtful castle doctrine laws.

Though not written quite as clearly, or at least clear by the standards of lay people, compared to other states there is very little to complain about when it comes to self-defense in the home so long as you live in Idaho.

But as always, the use of force and self-defense and particularly legal force is serious business and warrants considerable study in order to attain understanding. The following article will cover the most salient factors of castle doctrine law in the state of Idaho.

Fast Facts

  • Idaho allows occupants of a residence or dwelling to protect themselves, their families or others within the occupied structure with force, including lethal force if someone else is attempting to unlawfully enter the property by surprise or violence.
  • So long as the unlawful entrant is attempting to visit violence upon the occupants of the residence or dwelling or attempting to commit any felony within then the use of force, including lethal force is justified.
  • The state of Idaho presumes that anyone acting in defense of themselves or another while occupying a residence or habitation is acting reasonably assuming the standards of various statutes are met. See below.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Idaho

Right out of the gate, you’ll probably notice that Idaho law is written in a very “lawyerish” way for lack of a better word.

This is probably fine since state statutes and the arguing of the law in court is their province, naturally, but it does make it slightly more intimidating for us little people to do our own homework without having a legal professional at our elbow.

Nonetheless, and I’m happy to report, right up front Idaho makes no bones about their support for citizens rights to self-defense particularly inside and around their own homes or other dwellings.

In defense of a home, business, occupied vehicle or any other dwelling citizens in Idaho have the right to protect themselves from the unlawful use of force or attempted entry of any such place listed above that they also occupy.

Now, Idaho codifies plainly that they include castle doctrine and stand your ground laws as provisions throughout the code and also enduring instructions, so this isn’t simply castle doctrine by precedent unlike some other states.

However, it classifies such use of force, specifically lethal force, as justifiable homicide so long as the mandates of the statutes are met.

It is a bit harrowing when you put it like that, but technically the taking of any human life is homicide even when it is totally justifiable.

The specific letter of the law concerning US states that the use of force, specifically lethal force, is justified against anyone who would unlawfully enter by stealth, surprise or violence an occupied residence, vehicle or dwelling with the intent to commit a felony or to visit violence upon anyone in the property.

Note that the operative element of the statute below concerns the intent of the person entering an occupied structure unlawfully.

Elsewhere in the statutes the law states that a person who acts in defense of themselves or someone else in an occupied structure is presumed to have acted reasonably under the circumstances, and had a legitimate fear of death or great bodily injury at the hands of the intruder.

It also reaffirms that this is so only if the person unlawfully entering the home, be it by stealth or force, does so with the intent to commit a felony or an act of violence against an occupant.

So long as these standards are met the state clarifies that it is up to the prosecution to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the use of any level of force in self-defense was not justifiable.


As always, there are restrictions on the use of force and self-defense and particularly lethal force.

Unlike other state statutes which specify that unlawful entry must be forcible to qualify the defender for protection under the castle doctrine, Idaho goes a different route, stating that surreptitious entry, entry by stealth or entry by violence, if unlawful is all the same in the eyes of the law.

However, what might snag you is the intent of the person doing the entering. Everywhere it is relevant throughout the statutes you will see the same thing brought up about the intent of the person who unlawfully entered.

Force, especially lethal force, is only justifiable under the circumstances if the person enters unlawfully for the purposes of committing a felony or visiting violence upon an occupant in a residence or dwelling.

This could potentially lead to some tricky business in court if they are unarmed or simply claimed they were drunk on drugs or something of that nature although any forcible entry itself qualifies as a felony and a forcible one at that.

I would remind readers that there have been genuine false positive incidents involving drunk and miscreants unlawfully but harmlessly entering homes after wandering in through unlocked doors at odd hours, and in situations like that you may well not be justified using force at all unless the intruder presents a clear, direct threat after entering.


Despite some clunky language, Idaho’s castle doctrine laws are robust, proven and decisively on the side of the civilian defender.

So long as you are trying to protect yourself or someone else from an intruder who is entering or already entered the home unlawfully via stealth or by force with the purpose of committing a felony or harming someone within you are presumed to be acting with a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury should you use force, including lethal force in defense.

Relevant Idaho Castle Doctrine Statutes


(1) Homicide is justifiable when committed by any person in any of the following cases:

(a) When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person;

(b) When committed in defense of habitation, a place of business or employment, occupied vehicle, property or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation, place of business or employment or occupied vehicle of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein;

(c) When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant or engaged in mortal combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed; or

(d) When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed, or in lawfully suppressing any riot, or in lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.

(2) For purposes of subsection (1)(b) of this section, a person who unlawfully and by force or by stealth enters or attempts to enter a habitation, place of business or employment or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit a felony.

(3) For purposes of this section:

(a) “Habitation” means any building, inhabitable structure or conveyance of any kind, whether the building, inhabitable structure or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, and includes a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest, and includes the curtilage of any such dwelling.

(b) “Place of business or employment” means a commercial enterprise or establishment owned by a person as all or part of the person’s livelihood or is under the owner’s control or under control of an employee or agent of the owner with responsibility for protecting persons and property and shall include the interior and exterior premises of the place of business or employment.

(c) “Vehicle” means any motorized vehicle that is self-propelled and designed for use on public highways to transport people or property.


Lawful resistance to the commission of a public offense may be made:

1. By the party about to be injured.

2. By other parties.


It is the intent of the legislature to incorporate provisions of the castle doctrine and stand your ground provided in Idaho case law and jury instructions into certain sections of this chapter and in section 18-4009, Idaho Code.


(1) Resistance sufficient to prevent the offense may be made by the person about to be injured:

(a) To prevent an offense against his person, or his family, or some member thereof; or

(b) To prevent an illegal attempt by force to take or injure property in his lawful possession.

(2) A person acting pursuant to this section may use such degree and extent of force as would appear to be reasonably necessary to prevent the threatened injury. Reasonableness is to be judged from the viewpoint of a reasonable person placed in the same position and seeing and knowing what the person then saw and knew without the benefit of hindsight.


(1) No person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting himself or his family by reasonable means necessary, or when coming to the aid of another whom he reasonably believes to be in imminent danger of or the victim of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, murder or other heinous crime.

(2) The defense of self or of another does not require a person to wait until he or she ascertains whether the danger is apparent or real. A person confronted with such danger has a clear right to act upon appearances such as would influence the action of a reasonable person.

(3) In the exercise of the right of self-defense or defense of another, a person need not retreat from any place that person has a right to be. A person may stand his ground and defend himself or another person by the use of all force and means which would appear to be necessary to a reasonable person in a similar situation and with similar knowledge without the benefit of hindsight. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to a person incarcerated in jail or prison facilities when interacting with jail or prison staff who are acting in their official capacities.

(4) In any prosecution for the unlawful use of force, including deadly force, or the attempted or threatened use of force contrary to title 18, Idaho Code, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force, attempted use of force or threat to use force was not justifiable.

(5) A person using force or deadly force in defense of a habitation, place of business or employment or occupied vehicle as defined in section 18-4009(3), Idaho Code, is presumed to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the force is used against a person whose entry or attempted entry therein is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.


Any other person, in aid or defense of the person about to be injured, may make resistance sufficient to prevent the offense.

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