Castle Doctrine Law – Missouri

We are happy to report that Missouri is another state with functionally excellent castle doctrine statutes, even though they are not named accordingly on the law books.

Missouri law justifies the use of lethal force and self-defense so long as a citizen is any place they have a legal, lawful right to be, including their home or other dwelling, so long as the lethal force is being used to prevent the threat of great bodily injury or death.

Missouri state flag

In short, Missouri law essentially expands their typical self defense prerequisites to cover self-defense in the home or other dwelling.

But as one should expect by now there are always qualifications to the use of any force and self-defense and lethal force in particular.

We will break down everything you need to know about castle doctrine equivalent law in Missouri and have included the relevant State statutes at the end so that you may read them yourself.

Fast Facts

  • The basis of self-defense law in Missouri, including what would be called castle doctrine statutes, is predicated on the reasonable belief of death or great bodily injury whether in or out of the home or other dwelling.
  • Missouri law furthermore justifies a defender’s use of lethal defensive force to prevent the ongoing commission or imminent commission of forcible felonies.
  • As always, a claim of justification of lethal force and defense may not be used if one is the initial aggressor in an encounter, engaged in the commission of some other crime or in a place they do not have a legal, lawful right to be.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Missouri

As mentioned above, Missouri’s self defense laws are a functional castle doctrine equivalent because they cover self-defense inside the home or another dwelling as well as outside the home.

Generally, if the defender believes that the use of force and specifically lethal force is necessary to prevent the threat of death or great bodily injury to themselves or someone else the lethal defensive force is justified.

Additionally, lethal defensive force maybe utilized to prevent the imminent or ongoing commission of particular forcible felonies which Missouri state law names specifically as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor, child molestation, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary and arson of an occupied structure.

Pertaining to the home in particular, any attempted entry into an occupied home or other dwelling would likely constitute home invasion robbery, a forcible felony, and would thusly justify the use of lethal force in self-defense.

Compare and contrast this with spotting a trespasser somewhere on the cartilage of an occupied dwelling which is not a forcible felony and under those circumstances the use of lethal force would not be justified.

In all circumstances where the use of lethal force is justified in self-defense the defender has no obligation to the state to retreat or to attempt retreat before resorting to the use of force in defense.

Restrictions

Missouri’s restrictions and qualifiers for the use of force in self-defense and lethal force in particular are few but are clearly demarcated.

You may not use lethal force and self-defense if you are the initial aggressor in any confrontation and you may not claim self defense at all should you use force while committing any crime or while occupying a place where you have no legal, lawful right to be.

Most notably, lethal force may never be used in response to verbal provocation.

Assessment

The state of Missouri is possessed of staunchly pro-citizen self-defense laws and this includes a functional equivalent to Castle Doctrine.

Anytime a person is legally occupying their home or other dwelling they may use lethal force in response to the reasonable, imminent threat of death or great bodily injury for themselves or some other occupant of the dwelling, or in response to the ongoing or imminent commission of a forcible felony, including home invasion robbery.

Relevant Missouri Castle Doctrine Statutes

563.011. Chapter definitions.

As used in this chapter the following terms shall mean:

(2) “Deadly force”, physical force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing or which he or she knows to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious physical injury;

(3) “Dwelling”, any building, inhabitable structure, or conveyance of any kind, whether the building, inhabitable structure, or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night;

(4) “Forcible felony”, any felony involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual, including but not limited to murder, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, assault, and any forcible sexual offense;

(5) “Premises”, includes any building, inhabitable structure and any real property;

(6) “Private person”, any person other than a law enforcement officer;

(7) “Private property”, any real property in this state that is privately owned or leased;

(…)

(9) “Residence”, a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest;

(…)

(11) “Unlawfully enter”, a person unlawfully enters in or upon premises or private property when he or she enters such premises or private property and is not licensed or privileged to do so. A person who, regardless of his or her purpose, enters in or upon private property or premises that are at the time open to the public does so with license unless he or she defies a lawful order not to enter, personally communicated to him or her by the owner of such premises or by another authorized person. A license to enter in a building that is only partly open to the public is not a license to enter in that part of the building that is not open to the public.

563.026. Justification generally.

1. Unless inconsistent with other provisions of this chapter defining justifiable use of physical force, or with some other provision of law, conduct which would otherwise constitute any offense other than a class A felony or murder is justifiable and not criminal when it is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no fault of the actor, and which is of such gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability of avoiding the injury outweighs the desirability of avoiding the injury sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense charged.

2. The necessity and justifiability of conduct under subsection 1 of this section may not rest upon considerations pertaining only to the morality and advisability of the statute, either in its general application or with respect to its application to a particular class of cases arising thereunder. Whenever evidence relating to the defense of justification under this section is offered, the court shall rule as a matter of law whether the claimed facts and circumstances would, if established, constitute a justification.

3. The defense of justification under this section is an affirmative defense.

563.031. Use of force in defense of persons.

1. A person may, subject to the provisions of subsection 2 of this section, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful force by such other person, unless:

(1) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case his or her use of force is nevertheless justifiable provided:

(a) He or she has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened use of unlawful force; or

(b) He or she is a law enforcement officer and as such is an aggressor pursuant to section 563.046; or

(c) The aggressor is justified under some other provision of this chapter or other provision of law;

(2) Under the circumstances as the actor reasonably believes them to be, the person whom he or she seeks to protect would not be justified in using such protective force;

(3) The actor was attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of a forcible felony.

2. A person shall not use deadly force upon another person under the circumstances specified in subsection 1 of this section unless:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, or herself or her unborn child, or another against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony;

(2) Such force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle lawfully occupied by such person; or

(3) Such force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter private property that is owned or leased by an individual, or is occupied by an individual who has been given specific authority by the property owner to occupy the property, claiming a justification of using protective force under this section.

3. A person does not have a duty to retreat:

(1) From a dwelling, residence, or vehicle where the person is not unlawfully entering or unlawfully remaining;

(2) From private property that is owned or leased by such individual; or

(3) If the person is in any other location such person has the right to be.

4. The justification afforded by this section extends to the use of physical restraint as protective force provided that the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the restraint as soon as it is reasonable to do so.

5. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of justification under this section. If a defendant asserts that his or her use of force is described under subdivision (2) of subsection 2 of this section, the burden shall then be on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not reasonably believe that the use of such force was necessary to defend against what he or she reasonably believed was the use or imminent use of unlawful force.

563.041. Use of physical force in defense of property.

1. A person may, subject to the limitations of subsection 2, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes it necessary to prevent what he or she reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by such person of stealing, property damage or tampering in any degree.

2. A person may use deadly force under circumstances described in subsection 1 only when such use of deadly force is authorized under other sections of this chapter.

3. The justification afforded by this section extends to the use of physical restraint as protective force provided that the actor takes all reasonable measures to terminate the restraint as soon as it is reasonable to do so.

(…)

563.074. Justification as an absolute defense, when.

1. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 563.016, a person who uses force as described in sections 563.031, 563.041, 563.046, 563.051, 563.056, and 563.061 is justified in using such force and such fact shall be an absolute defense to criminal prosecution or civil liability.

2. The court shall award attorney’s fees, court costs, and all reasonable expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant has an absolute defense as provided in subsection 1 of this section.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.