Initially, the right to kill someone who intrudes on your abode without your own permission derives from English Common Law, where the owner of the home is compared with the holder of the castle, where he can administer his own justice.
Criminal Law and Castle Doctrine
The set of case and statutory laws, which allow an individual to kill someone in the place of residence, is known as the Castle Doctrine. The doctrine, which is incorporated in the various bylaws and case law, is extensively applied in the United States of America and in the countries of the British Commonwealth under this doctrine. An abode of an individual (a home or habitation) or in some instances other premises or other places, which are occupied on the legal grounds (car or office), are the places, where additional immunities and rights are granted to the person. In other words, under this doctrine, the person will be completely discharged from liability, if he kills the intruder and several conditions are observed. The legal term for taking the life of the intruder is “the application of the deadly force.”
The right to apply deadly force emerges when the person “reasonably fears that imminent peril of death or grievous bodily harm can be afflicted either to him or to another human being”.
However, in order to make this doctrine applicable, a number of requirements must be met:
- The person who commits an intrusion must be attempting to enter the occupied premises, business premises or the car (another vehicle) without the permission of the owner, unlawfully or with the application of physical force.
- The actions of the intruder must be entirely illegal. To illustrate, the one who shoots the intruder will not be absolved from either criminal or civil liability, if police or an army officer was killed while acting in his official capacity. However, the killer must be aware of this fact. In other words, the character of the actions perpetrated by the intruder must be communicated in a clear and recognizable way; otherwise, the person will be entirely absolved from any kind of liability.
- The owner of the home, or the one who rightfully occupies it, must be firmly convinced (the legal definition is that “he must reasonably believe”) that the actions of the assailant are aimed at inflicting grievous bodily harm or demise on the owner of the home or other rightful occupants. However, it must be mentioned that several states in the USA find this defense applicable for minor crimes.
- The owner of the house or other legal occupants of the house might not have provoked the assault or the threatening of the intruder to kill the owner and rightful occupants or to inflict serious physical harm to them.
- The owner of the house and other righteous occupants of the house must not evade justice at the lopus delicti (the abode) and must facilitate another person to evade justice or abet another person to be fugitive from justice.
The defender of the “abode” is freed from liability, providing that all requirements stated above have been met.
Apart from freeing the occupant of the house from criminal liability, the law provides that the occupant who kills the intruder is freed from all kinds of civil liability. The aggrieved party or his rightful heirs may not sue him for damages, which resulted from the application of the force or even deadly force.
To summarize, it can be inferred that the Castle Doctrine of the Common Law completely conforms to the basic democratic rights and freedoms and maintains the balance between the interests of the individual and the safety of the community.