Many defensively minded citizens know that Tennessee possesses some of the best all-around pro citizen self-defense laws in the nation, but what they might not know is that this state was among the first to properly codify Castle Doctrine statutes for the same purpose.
In short, if a citizen is attacked in any place where they have a legal, lawful right to be, and inside their home or other dwelling in particular, they have no obligation to retreat or to attempt retreat before resorting to lethal force if the situation justifies the use of that force in self-defense.
As always, you will definitely want to get all the details as part of a comprehensive self-defense plan, so we’ll be bringing you a thorough overview of Tennessee’s Castle Doctrine statutes below.
Make sure you check out the exact verbiage of the included statutes at the end of the article.
- In Tennessee, a defender is presumed to be acting with a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death if they are forced to defend themselves from an unlawful use of force against them while inside their home or other dwelling.
- In this case, the justifiable use of legal force and self-defense as predicated upon the unlawful use of any force that is likely to result in death or great bodily injury against the defender, another person, or in response to the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.
- Certain restrictions regarding the use of force in defense of a home or dwelling apply if the person who is attempting entry to the dwelling is doing so as part of a lawful right to occupational or possession of the property, or is doing so under the express commission of their lawfully appointed duties.
Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Tennessee
Tennessee’s Castle Doctrine statutes are an ideal version of this increasingly common precept in self-defense law.
So long as a person is in any place that they have a lawful right to be, and are not committing or preparing to commit any other crime, they have no obligation to retreat before resorting to force in self-defense so long as that self-defense is justified.
Where the Castle Doctrine part of the law kicks in is in regards to defending one’s home, dwelling, business or other habitation.
If a defender is resorting to force, including lethal force, in self-defense against the use of unlawful force against them or another occupant in the home or other structure in the law presumes the defender was acting with a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury at the hands of the attacker.
Additionally, the same applies if the defender is using lethal force in self-defense to prevent the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony. This could be something like home invasion, arson, kidnapping, sexual assault and alike.
Particularly in the case of home invasion if a forcible entry is occurring unlawfully, then the defender is justified in resorting to force to stop the unlawful entry – they need not wait until the unlawful entry has occurred.
A citizen may not claim lawful self-defense and any encounter or confrontation where they were the initial aggressor, or if the defense takes place in any area or any place where they do not have a lawful right to be, or if they were engaged in the commission of any crime or preparing to commit a crime.
Bottom line, so long as you are a genuine good guy or good gal and not breaking any laws and are occupying a place that you have a right to be you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Tennessee’s Castle Doctrine laws are roundly excellent, and serve as a model for other states that might consider or are planning to adopt the same statutes. Any person who is defending their home, dwelling or other place of business from an unlawful use of force against them or the commission of a forcible felony is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury at the time that they resorted to force, including lethal force, to stop the attack.
Relevant Tennessee Castle Doctrine Statutes
(a) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) “Business” 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 who is an employee or agent of the owner with responsibility for protecting persons and property and shall include the interior and exterior premises of the business;
(3) “Curtilage” means the area surrounding a dwelling that is necessary, convenient and habitually used for family purposes and for those activities associated with the sanctity of a person’s home;
(4) “Deadly force” means the use of force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury;
(5) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, that has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed for or capable of use by people;
(6) “Nuclear power reactor facility” means a reactor designed to produce heat for electric generation, for producing radiation or fissionable materials, or for reactor component testing, and does not include a reactor used for research purposes;
(7) “Nuclear security officer” means a person who meets the requirements of 10 CFR Part 73, Appendix B, who is an employee or an employee of a contractor of the owner of a category I nuclear facility or nuclear power reactor facility, and who has been appointed or designated by the owner of a category I nuclear facility or nuclear power reactor facility to provide security for the facility;
(8) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides, either temporarily or permanently, or is visiting as an invited guest, or any dwelling, building or other appurtenance within the curtilage of the residence; and
(9) “Vehicle” means any motorized vehicle that is self-propelled and designed for use on public highways to transport people or property.
(1) Notwithstanding § 39-17-1322, a person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and is in a place where the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat before threatening or using force against another person when and to the degree the person reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful force.
(2) Notwithstanding § 39-17-1322, a person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and is in a place where the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat before threatening or using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, if:
(A) The person has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
(B) The danger creating the belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury is real, or honestly believed to be real at the time; and
(C) The belief of danger is founded upon reasonable grounds.
(c) Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury within a residence, business, dwelling or vehicle is presumed to have held a reasonable belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury to self, family, a member of the household or a person visiting as an invited guest, when that force is used against another person, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence, business, dwelling or vehicle, and the person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.
(d) The presumption established in subsection (c) shall not apply, if:
(1) The person against whom the force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, business, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder; provided, that the person is not prohibited from entering the dwelling, business, residence, or occupied vehicle by an order of protection, injunction for protection from domestic abuse, or a court order of no contact against that person;
(2) The person against whom the force is used is attempting to remove a person or persons who is a child or grandchild of, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used;
(3) Notwithstanding § 39-17-1322, the person using force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, business, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
(4) The person against whom force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in § 39-11-106, who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, business, residence, or vehicle in the performance of the officer’s official duties, and the officer identified the officer 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 law enforcement officer.
(e) The threat or use of force against another is not justified:
(1) If the person using force consented to the exact force used or attempted by the other individual;
(2) If the person using force provoked the other individual’s use or attempted use of unlawful force, unless:
(A) The person using force abandons the encounter or clearly communicates to the other the intent to do so; and
(B) The other person nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful force against the person; or
(3) To resist a halt at a roadblock, arrest, search, or stop and frisk that the person using force knows is being made by a law enforcement officer, unless:
(A) The law enforcement officer uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest, search, stop and frisk, or halt; and
(B) The person using force reasonably believes that the force is immediately necessary to protect against the law enforcement officer’s use or attempted use of greater force than necessary.
(f) A nuclear security officer is authorized to use deadly force under the following circumstances:
(1) Deadly force appears reasonably necessary to prevent or impede an act, or attempted act, of radiological sabotage at a category I nuclear facility or nuclear power reactor facility, including, but not limited to, situations where a person is attempting to, or has, unlawfully or forcefully entered a category I nuclear facility or nuclear power reactor facility, and where adversary tactics are employed to attempt an act of radiological sabotage, such as, but not limited to:
(A) Use of firearms or small arms;
(B) Use of explosive devices;
(C) Use of incendiary devices;
(D) Use of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices;
(E) Use of water borne improvised explosive devices;
(F) Breaching of barriers; and
(G) Use of other adversary or terrorist tactics which could be employed to attempt an act of radiological sabotage;
(2) Deadly force appears reasonably necessary to protect the nuclear security officer or another person if the nuclear security officer reasonably believes there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
(3) Deadly force appears reasonably necessary to prevent the imminent infliction or threatened infliction of death or serious bodily harm or the sabotage of an occupied facility by explosives;
(4) Deadly force appears reasonably necessary to prevent the theft, sabotage, or unauthorized control of special nuclear material from a nuclear power reactor facility or of a nuclear weapon or nuclear explosive device or special nuclear material from a category I nuclear facility; or
(5) Deadly force reasonably appears to be necessary to apprehend or prevent the escape of a person reasonably believed to:
(A) Have committed an offense of the nature specified under this subsection (f); or
(B) Be escaping by use of a weapon or explosive or who otherwise poses an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm to nuclear security officers or others unless apprehended without delay.
39-11-612. Defense of third person.
A person is justified in threatening or using force against another to protect a third person, if:
(1) Under the circumstances as the person reasonably believes them to be, the person would be justified under § 39-11-611 in threatening or using force to protect against the use or attempted use of unlawful force reasonably believed to be threatening the third person sought to be protected; and
(2) The person reasonably believes that the intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person.
39-11-621. Use of deadly force by private citizens.
A private citizen, in making an arrest authorized by law, may use force reasonably necessary to accomplish the arrest of an individual who flees or resists the arrest; provided, that a private citizen cannot use or threaten to use deadly force except to the extent authorized under self-defense or defense of third person statutes, §§ 39-11-611 and 39-11-612.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.