Castle Doctrine Law – Iowa

The state of Iowa implements a set of statutes that equate to a functional castle doctrine law even though it is not specifically named as such.

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Residents occupying a dwelling or other structure may employ force, including lethal force, in defense of themselves and any others occupying a dwelling so long as they are responding to a forcible or surreptitious unlawful entry into the occupied dwelling.

Additionally lethal force may be utilized to prevent the imminent and forcible removal of anyone occupying the dwelling or the commission of any other forcible felony therein.

As always, you want to know all the details about these statutes to further develop your own comprehensive self-defense plan.

We will tell you everything you need to know throughout the rest of this article and make sure you stick around to catch selected at state statutes included verbatim at the end.

Fast Facts

  • Iowa law permits citizens to use lethal force in defense of an occupied dwelling if an aggressor is making a forcible or surreptitious entry into the dwelling.
  • Iowa law further presumes that the defender is acting with a reasonable belief that deadly force is a necessary to avoid significant bodily injury or death under the circumstances described above.
  • The use of deadly force is also justified in defense of a dwelling to prevent the unlawful removal of any occupant or the commission of any forcible felony therein.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Iowa

I was castle doctrine equivalent statutes are clearly written and easy to understand. In short, so long as a citizen is defending themselves from an aggressor who is making a forcible or surreptitious entry into an occupied dwelling they are presumed to be possessed of a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury and the use of lethal force in defense is justified.

A forcible entry is one where the intruder must use physical force to overcome a lock, break down a door, smash a window, etc. A surreptitious entry is one done stealthily or by guile, sneaking in, in other words.

Similarly, defenders may use lethal force to prevent the unlawful removal or kidnapping of anyone residing in the same dwelling and may usually the force in defense against the commission or imminent commission of any other forcible felony within the dwelling or directed against any other occupant.

At no time under the above circumstances is the defender or any other occupant obligated to attempt retreat from the situation before employing legal force in defense as described.

Restrictions

As one might expect, the above statutes only apply to people who are legally occupying a dwelling and are not otherwise engaged in the commission of any crime.

Furthermore, lethal force and indeed force of any kind may not be used in defense against a person who has legal custody or legal guardianship over any person within the dwelling when attempting to remove them.

In such cases, no felony is being committed and the use of any force in defense is not lawful and there is no presumption of fear or injury on behalf of oneself or another person.

Assessment

Iowa Castle Doctrine statutes are not called as much by name but functionally are clear and easy to understand.

So long as someone is defending an occupied dwelling against a forcible or surreptitious entry from an aggressor they are presumed to be in fear of death or great bodily injury and may use lethal force in defense.

Lethal force in defense of a dwelling may also be used to prevent the commission or imminent commission of any forcible felony inside the structure.

Relevant Iowa Castle Doctrine Statutes

702.12 Occupied structure.

An “occupied structure” is any building, structure, appurtenances to buildings and structures, land, water or air vehicle, or similar place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or occupied by persons for the purpose of carrying on business or other activity therein, or for the storage or safekeeping of anything of value. Such a structure is an “occupied structure” whether or not a person is actually present. However, for purposes of chapter 713, a box, chest, safe, changer, or other object or device which is adapted or used for the deposit or storage of anything of value but which is too small or not designed to allow a person to physically enter or occupy it is not an “occupied structure”.

702.10 Dwelling.

A “dwelling” is any building or structure, permanent or temporary, or any land, water or air vehicle, adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, and actually in use by some person or persons as permanent or temporary sleeping quarters, whether such person is present or not

704.1 Reasonable force.

1. “Reasonable force” means that force and no more which a reasonable person, in like circumstances, would judge to be necessary to prevent an injury or loss and can include deadly force if it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another, or it is reasonable to believe that such force is necessary to resist a like force or threat.

2. A person may be wrong in the estimation of the danger or the force necessary to repel the danger as long as there is a reasonable basis for the belief of the person and the person acts reasonably in the response to that belief.

3. A person who is not engaged in illegal activity has no duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force as specified in this chapter.

704.2 Deadly force.

1. The term “deadly force” means any of the following:

a. Force used for the purpose of causing serious injury.

b. Force which the actor knows or reasonably should know will create a strong probability that serious injury will result.

c. The discharge of a firearm, other than a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions and discharged by a peace officer, corrections officer, or corrections official in the line of duty, in the direction of some person with the knowledge of the person’s presence there, even though no intent to inflict serious physical injury can be shown.

d. The discharge of a firearm, other than a firearm loaded with less lethal munitions and discharged by a peace officer, corrections officer, or corrections official in the line of duty, at a vehicle in which a person is known to be.

2. “Deadly force” does not include a threat to cause serious injury or death, by the production, display, or brandishing of a deadly weapon, as long as the actions of the person are limited to creating an expectation that the person may use deadly force to defend oneself, another, or as otherwise authorized by law.

3. As used in this section, “less lethal munitions” means projectiles which are designed to stun, temporarily incapacitate, or cause temporary discomfort to a person without penetrating the person’s body.

704.2A Justifiable use of deadly force.

1. For purposes of this chapter, a person is presumed to reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another in either of the following circumstances:

a. The person against whom force is used, at the time the force is used, is doing any of the following:

(1) Unlawfully entering by force or stealth the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, or has unlawfully entered by force or stealth and remains within the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.

(2) Unlawfully removing or is attempting to unlawfully remove another person against the other person’s will from the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.

b. The person using force knows or has reason to believe that any of the conditions set forth in paragraph “a” are occurring.

2. The presumption set forth in subsection 1 does not apply if, at the time force is used, any of the following circumstances are present:

a. The person using defensive force is engaged in a criminal offense, is attempting to escape from the scene of a criminal offense that the person has committed, or is using the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal offense.

b. The person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of the person against whom force is used.

c. The person against whom force is used is a peace officer who has entered or is attempting to enter a dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle in the lawful performance of the peace officer’s official duties.

d. The person against whom the force is used has the right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, and a protective or no-contact order is not in effect against the person against whom the force is used.

(…)

704.4 Defense of property.

A person is justified in the use of reasonable force to prevent or terminate criminal interference with the person’s possession or other right in property. Nothing in this section authorizes the use of any spring gun or trap which is left unattended and unsupervised and which is placed for the purpose of preventing or terminating criminal interference with the possession of or other right in property.

704.5 Aiding another in the defense of property.

A person is justified in the use of reasonable force to aid another in the lawful defense of the other person’s rights in property or in any public property.

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