Castle Doctrine Law – Kentucky

Kentucky is another state with a robust, unambiguous set of castle doctrine statutes on the books.

If you are attacked in your home or some other dwelling in Kentucky, you may defend yourself, your family and any other legal occupant in the home under pretty much any conditions were a lethal threat or forcible felony might exist.

flag of Kentucky

Only in rare and very particular circumstances is a civilian defender not afforded this protection under the law in a legitimate self-defense scenario.

As always, self-defense is very serious business and you’ll be facing equally serious consequences if you are wrong or go off half-cocked.

We will give you all the facts that you need to know regarding Kentucky’s castle doctrine laws in the rest of this article, and make sure to stick around at the end of the article so that you may review relevant state statutes yourself.

Fast Facts

  • Kentucky castle doctrine law allows occupants of a residence or dwelling to use lethal force in defense against a person who is in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering the structure, or who has already unlawfully and forcibly enter the structure.
  • Under such circumstances as detailed above, defenders are presumed to be reasonably in fear of great bodily injury or death, and may act accordingly.
  • The standards of castle doctrine do not apply in certain, specific circumstances, namely when the intruder has a legal claim to the property, is a legal occupant or is attempting to remove a child whom they have legal custody or guardianship over.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Kentucky

Castle doctrine law in Kentucky is quite straightforward.

So long as someone is occupying their own residence or a dwelling, with a dwelling being any place that is intended for housing people at night, and can include a hotel room, motel or other temporary lodging, lethal force may be used against anyone who is forcibly and unlawfully entering the residence or dwelling, or who has already entered accordingly.

This is because Kentucky presumes any defender in such a situation has a genuine, reasonable fear of great bodily injury or death.

Similarly, lethal force may be used under the same circumstances against someone who’s trying to commit any felony within the structure, such as kidnapping.

And that’s pretty much it. The law is decisively on the side of the defender in Kentucky should anyone attempt a forcible entry into an occupied structure.

Note that this can create a sort of Gap in a defender’s use of force continuum should an intruder be able to enter surreptitiously through an open door or unlocked door, similarly a window or some other aperture. Forcible and unlawful is the essential qualifier under Kentucky’s castle doctrine.

Restrictions

There are some significant restrictions regarding Kentucky’s castle doctrine that defenders will need to know about.

Namely, someone cannot use force and lethal force in particular against anyone who is attempting entry into a structure, or to remove someone from a structure, when they have a legal claim to the property in question and possession of it.

For instance, if you are a tenant or some other renter of a property and are being evicted or are legally de-barred from accessing the property and are remaining their illegally, you could not shoot the owner of the property or the landlord if they made entry to verify its status, even if you are trying to prevent that entry.

in a similar vein, you cannot claim castle doctrine in defense against anyone who is attempting to enter a property to remove a minor under their custody or whom they have legal guardianship over, or in any case, the removal of said minor by that person.

Also, because of course, you cannot claim castle doctrine in defense against any law enforcement officer or other badged official who is executing their duties.

Assessment

Kentucky has exemplary castle doctrine statutes on the books.

So long as you were legally occupying your residence or some other domicile and another person tries to unlawfully and forcibly enter the residence the state presumes that the defender and occupants within have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury and may use lethal force in self-defense.

With scarce few exceptions for official duties or the parent or legal guardian of a minor attempting to remove a child under their care from a place that is otherwise occupied there is little else to know about castle doctrine in Kentucky.

Relevant Kentucky Castle Doctrine Statutes

503.020 Justification — A defense.

In any prosecution for an offense, justification, as defined in this chapter, is a defense.

503.050 Use of physical force in self-protection — Admissibility of evidence of prior acts of domestic violence and abuse.

(1) The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by the other person.

(2) The use of deadly physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable under subsection (1) only when the defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat, felony involving the use of force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to KRS 503.055.

(3) Any evidence presented by the defendant to establish the existence of a prior act or acts of domestic violence and abuse as defined in KRS 403.720 by the person against whom the defendant is charged with employing physical force shall be admissible under this section.

(4) A person does not have a duty to retreat prior to the use of deadly physical force.

503.055 Use of defensive force regarding dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle — Exceptions.

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and

(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) of this section does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person;

(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 the defensive force is used;

(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or

(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a peace officer, as defined in KRS 446.010, who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties, and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a peace officer.

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a felony involving the use of force.

(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

503.060 Improper use of physical force in self-protection.

Notwithstanding the provisions of KRS 503.050, the use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is not justifiable when:

(1) The defendant is resisting an arrest by a peace officer, recognized to be acting under color of official authority and using no more force than reasonably necessary to effect the arrest, although the arrest is unlawful; or

(2) The defendant, with the intention of causing death or serious physical injury to the other person, provokes the use of physical force by such other person; or

(3) The defendant was the initial aggressor, except that his use of physical force upon the other person under this circumstance is justifiable when:

(a) His initial physical force was nondeadly and the force returned by the other is such that he believes himself to be in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury; or

(b) He withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his intent to do so and the latter nevertheless continues or threatens the use of unlawful physical force.

503.070 Protection of another.

(1) The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when:

(a) The defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect a third person against the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by the other person; and

(b) Under the circumstances as the defendant believes them to be, the person whom he seeks to protect would himself have been justified under KRS 503.050 and 503.060 in using such protection.

(2) The use of deadly physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when:

(a) The defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect a third person against imminent death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat, or other felony involving the use of force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to KRS 503.055; and

(b) Under the circumstances as they actually exist, the person whom he seeks to protect would himself have been justified under KRS 503.050 and 503.060 in using such protection.

(3) A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

503.080 Protection of property.

(1) The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent:

(a) The commission of criminal trespass, robbery, burglary, or other felony involving the use of force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to KRS 503.055, in a dwelling, building or upon real property in his possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection he acts; or

(b) Theft, criminal mischief, or any trespassory taking of tangible, movable property in his possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection he acts.

(2) The use of deadly physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable under subsection (1) only when the defendant believes that the person against whom such force is used is:

(a) Attempting to dispossess him of his dwelling otherwise than under a claim of right to its possession; or

(b) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary, robbery, or other felony involving the use of force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to KRS 503.055, of such dwelling; or

(c) Committing or attempting to commit arson of a dwelling or other building in his possession.

(3) A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

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