A Man's Home: The Castle Doctrine

By: Todd Baucher Email
By: Todd Baucher Email

It comes down to a simple question...how would you react if someone was trying to enter your home uninvited...and possibly not with the best of intentions?

It all goes back to a saying which came about centuries ago.

"The Castle Doctrine came from English law, based on the saying, 'a man's home is his castle'," says local attorney Bill Richardson. "What is contained in your home is your family, your most precious asset as a human."

But what has come to be known as the Castle Law was enacted just last year, in both West Virginia and Ohio. But the intent was the same: giving citizens the right to defend themselves, including with weapons, to ensure their safety in their own home.

"If you are in your home and someone is breaking into your house, you now have the right to shoot them," says Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. "But I would also caution people to use due diligence and prudence before you do that."

But what it also does is place the burden of proof on both law enforcement and prosecutors, in a case involving a shooting or shooting death, to prove that the shooter was not acting in self-defense.

"We try to use an open mind, and during the investigative process, we will try to keep in consideration what they said led up to the shooting," says Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy. "But we look at the totality of the evidence, and does it make sense?"

While there have been recent incidents, the claim of self-defense isn't anything new.

In 1981, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned a local court finding a juvenile committed voluntary manslaughter...citing what it called "the overwhelming evidence of self-defense".

Tuesday on WTAP News at Six and Wednesday on Daybreak, Todd Baucher looks at how self-defense plays a role in another law that's been in effect for several years.

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  • by Geoff Location: San Antonio , TX on Nov 11, 2009 at 11:19 AM
    The most important thing, by far, about the Castle Doctrine law, is simply that it places the burden of proof of wrong-doing squarely where it belongs - with the DA. It means that a citizen is now truly presumed innocent until proven guilty. Before it, you had to prove that you had acted in self-defense; now, in your home anyway, the DA must actually PROVE that you DID NOT. Many citizens "copped a plea" for a lesser sentence (thereby inflating the DAs "conviction rate," BTW) simply to avoid being tried under conditions that required proof that you were reasonably in fear of your life, couldn't flee, etc. How do you prove that? It's extremely difficult, often impossible; so you "cop a plea." Now the DA actually has to PROVE your criminal intent, which means indictments only when there is actually good reason to suspect such intent. This adversely impacts the DAs conviction rate, which is the real reason DAs so often oppose this type of law.
  • by Frank Location: VA on Nov 10, 2009 at 05:36 PM
    The law didn't "give" the citizens anything. It finally recognized the citizens inherent rights.
  • by John Location: Wheeling on Nov 10, 2009 at 02:10 PM
    The concept of "self-defense" and "protecting my family" are quaint. I don't trust myself to protect my family. I only trust the laws of the Democratic Party to protect my wife and kids. If Democrats say that gun control is the answer then who am I to question them? As a good Democrat I have been taught to never think for myself. I let Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama think for me. The Brady Group says that 100 million gajillion children die every day in the U.S. from handgun violence. I know this to be true because the Democrats say it is so and I was never taught math in public school so I can't confirm it anyway. They promise me that if everyone would turn in their handguns then the whole world would be sunshine and lolipopds!!! Democrats say that everyone who owns a gun is racist and evil. The Castle Doctrine is wrong because the Democrats say only the police should have guns. The party of Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank is never wrong.
  • by Jason P Adams Location: St Marys on Nov 10, 2009 at 01:01 PM
    I live 11 miles from town in any direction. It would take the sheriff's dpt about 15 to 20 minutes to get here. Even with the pedal to the floor, they'd be lucky to make that time. Because of that, I don't take chances. If someone was breaking into my home,they would not walk away. I've had an experience in the past out here and learned real quick that you can't always depend on law enforcement. I'm not saying that it's their fault, I'm just saying that you need to be ready to drop somebody if you have to.
  • by nat Location: nc on Nov 10, 2009 at 10:31 AM
    first of all i didnt worry to much about this when i lived in good ole P BURG, but now i do lots of homes in my area get broken into. Im not sure what the law is here (i need to check)but i have 3 girls and ive recently installed an alarm.If some one comes into my house without asking im going to defend them and myself.my husband has a few guns and i know how to load and use them all.since our ares is prone to break ins we do have a hand gun loaded at all times . dont worry its in the top of my closet and i keep the closet locked so no children will get to it.
  • by Pkb resident on Nov 10, 2009 at 09:04 AM
    Quote="If you are in your home and someone is breaking into your house, you now have the right to shoot them," says Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. "But I would also caution people to use due diligence and prudence before you do that." Diligence- It is one of the seven Holy Virtues.I will be very careful to make sure the safety is off and my magazine is full. Prudence-(i.e. over-cautiousness), can become the vice of cowardice- I will be ever so cautious to point my revolver on short notice, or shotgun if you give me the time and ample warning as to defend my family to the point where by you may never see the light of day again.What is mine is mine and you will pay the ultimate price in trying to get it. Get off your lazy duff and get a job to support your drug habit.
  • by Philip Location: Parkersburg on Nov 10, 2009 at 07:51 AM
    I will attempt to prevent and protect. I will prevent a CRIMINAL from entering my residence by keeping my doors locked so that the CRIMINAL has NO misunderstanding that I wish to welcome him in to my privacy. And I will protect my family with whatever methods are necessary...my hands, my bat, my Smith & Wesson...and the court and the attorneys will need to do the rest.
  • by St Marys mom Location: Saint Marys on Nov 10, 2009 at 05:11 AM
    Listen, if someone is trying to break into my home they're up to no-good. So, they are breaking in because they want to visit and chat over a cup of tea ? Please these days the freaking Criminals has more rights than the average citizen who follows the laws. I will not risk my families life either just like Anonymous.
  • by Flavet Location: Vienna, Virginia on Nov 10, 2009 at 03:24 AM
    An early, perhaps the first, and certainly the most eloquent expression of the Castle Doctrine was offered to the Parlament by Prime Minister William Pitt the elder. “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter -- but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!” Pitt was a mensch! Consider this: "If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms -- never! never! never!” I think he was one of us or a Taliban fighter. ;-)
  • by Martin on Nov 10, 2009 at 03:15 AM
    Ditto, This is a great law and will guarentee my vote for the people who passed this in Ohio thank you Gov. Strickland!
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