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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Deadly Force vs. Killing Comment
    Gregory Morris, 1/3/08 11:33:12 am
    Here's a bit about the controversy surrounding Missouri's Castle Doctrine.

    First of all, let me say that I don't know precisely what the law is in Missouri, but all "castle doctrine" laws abolish any duty to retreat within one's home and allow the lawful resident to meet force with force. Many also include a presumption of a threat of forcible felony when someone is or has broken into your home.

    I have one significant nit to pick with this article, however. The author states: "...allowing anyone to kill a person unlawfully entering private premise..." This is semantically incorrect, but dangerously so. The author goes on to clearly demonstrate he does not understand the castle doctrine (or basic concepts of self defense for that matter) with statements such as: "...quick and sure retribution for heinous acts," and suggesting that some people feel a quick trigger finger is an means to that end. That sounds borderline PSHy.

    As I stated, castle doctrine laws allow you to meet force with force, up to and including deadly force if need be without requiring you to retreat first. Eliminating the need to retreat is simply good tactics. It doesn't say you may not retreat, but simply that you are allowed to do whatever is necessary given the situation.

    Allowing the use of "deadly force" and allowing "anyone to kill", however, are not the same thing. No citizen has the right to kill anyone ever. Let me explain what I mean by that... In states that have enacted castle doctrine legislation, citizens have the right to use force that may result in the death of the intruder. Notice the fine difference here... When you kill someone, you are choosing to deprive them of their life (for whatever reason.) When you use deadly force in self defense, the criminal made the choice to face deadly force by posing a serious threat to you.

    In real-world terms, you may stop a threat to yourself using whatever force is necessary, but as soon as the threat has ceased, you may no longer continue using force. So if you incapacitate an intruder by shooting them and they survive, it is still considered "deadly force" legally. Likewise, if you use deadly force to incapacitate an intruder, but then proceed to shoot them in the head after the threat has ended, that would be considered murder (even if they were likely to bleed to death anyway.)

    The important thing to consider is "who made the choice that the intruder dies?" If the criminal, by his actions, made that choice, then you are within the letter and spirit of the law when you pull the trigger. But the second you choose that the criminal should die rather than simply being stopped, you are committing murder.

    I understand that in real-world scenarios, these lines tend to be rather blurry. That is why the law gives our justice system means to deal with each case given its unique facts.

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

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