Castle Doctrine: Defending your Home

Castle Doctrine: Defending your Home

Clearing up the Confusion

All too often we hear the following line in our classes:

If someone breaks in to my house I’m gonna shoot ’em!”  

Which is usually followed by our answer of:

Well you are probably going to jail.

At which time someone in the class tosses out this:

But Merica Castle Doctrine!?!?

All right…. school circle on the Sarge for a minute. Sit, kneel, bend, and stand and Lance Corporal Schmuckatelli please focus your attention over here, not on the air wing overhead…

Technically… Castle Doctrine does exist in Massachusetts. “Technically.”

According to MGL Chapter 278 Section 8(a):

In the prosecution of a person who is an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring one who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in his dwelling at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person unlawfully in said dwelling was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant or upon another person lawfully in said dwelling, and that said occupant used reasonable means to defend himself or such other person lawfully in said dwelling. There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling. – MA General Laws

Well there it is. Straight from the law books. You can defend yourself in your home, with deadly force, in Massachusetts. Sort of….

Clear as Mud

There are a few points that you need to take consideration of when developing your Home Defense Plan in regards to using Deadly Force to protect your castle…

  1. You MUST understand the law. Read the above paragraph a few hundred times and imprint that on your brain housing group.
  2. Just because some POS (Person or Suspect) has broken and entered in to your home does not green light you to go ahead and fire for effect.

You must be able to reasonably articulate that you were in fear for your life, or in fear of serious bodily injury and failure protect yourself would have resulted in death or serious injury to yourself or another innocent person.

Remember: this must be found to be reasonable by either a judge or a jury of your peers. And trust me… juries can be fickle. VERY fickle.

What is Castle Doctrine?

The theory of Castle Doctrine itself has its origin in common law where the homeowner or other legal occupant of a dwelling has a right to defend the dwelling against an intruder.

To clarify:

Typically, deadly force is considered justified homicide only in cases when the actor reasonably feared imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm to oneself or another. The doctrine is not a defined law that can be invoked, but is a set of principles which is incorporated in some form in the law of most states.- Randall/DeBoer, 2012

In effect, you have to be able to justify your actions.


Is it someone intent on killing you? Or is it someone who made a bad decision? You decide.

Check the Boxes

In order for you to be able to, not that anyone wants to deploy a firearm for the purposes of self defense (If you do you need to move to the woods far away from society… not that anything is wrong with moving to the woods far away from society), check the “boxes” in a sense.

The attacker/intruder must have the following:

  1. ABILITY to Cause Lethal Harm or Inflict Serious Bodily Injury
  2. OPPORTUNITY to Cause Lethal Harm or Inflict Serious Bodily Injury
  3. MEANS to cause Lethal Harm or Inflict Serious Bodily Injury

We break this topic down at great length in our Use of Force | Home Defense | Concealed Carry course but the short of it is, if you cannot meet these criteria, you MUST resolve this situation in another way.

An Ounce of Preparation…

In order to prevail in an armed encounter you have to prepare the mind and the body. This is where training comes in. At the least, this post will give you a basic foundation of when deadly force may be authorized. Learning how to set yourself up for success is critical and should be done in an arena where respawns are free and you can correct poor tactics without dire penalty. If you want to learn when you can shoot, how to choose a self defense/home defense firearm, and just as importantly how to use said weapon system under stress, check out the image below. Give it a click….


All Simunition guns, ammo, and gear PLUS Lunch included in tuition! Sign up today!

It IS Your Castle

We get it. No one wants the sanctity of their home invaded by scumbags who are hell bent on disruption of your life and liberty. We need to follow some rules though… primarily staying out of jail and out of the morgue. We all pray that we never end up in such a situation but it is always better to be prepared. Arming yourself with knowledge is just as important as arming yourself with a gun….

Perhaps more so.


If you liked this post, leave us a comment and keep the discussion going!


Robert Curran

Rob is co-owner of Tactical Dynamics Firearms Training and is a USMC veteran and active Law Enforcement Officer. Rob is a Sig Sauer Master Rated Firearms Instructor and holds several other ratings from various institutions.

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