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I was wondering, suppose someone enters a dwelling uninvited in a state that has a stand your ground law (or as I am being correct on, Castle Doctrine). If the door was not locked, would the homeowner (or renter) be justified in shooting (and even killing) the intruder if they feel their life or well being was seriously threatened by the intruder?

Would it matter if the door was left unlocked by accident or even intentionally or would that play a big factor in the case in determining possible guilt (such as the homeowner was hoping for an intruder to come in so he could shoot that person, perhaps knowing that someone was after him)?

Does the law require all necessary precautions (locks, security system...) be taken before deadly force can be used in home defense? For example, suppose someone came home from work tired, forgot to lock the door and fell asleep on the couch, only to be awakened by an intruder who they then shot. Is that shooting justified under "stand your ground / Castle Doctrine" or would the shooter be in big trouble because the door was not locked?

I am thinking since this situation could also happen in a car where the driver didn't yet have time to lock the door if an intruder tries to get in and do harm quickly.

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    Which state? Stand your ground laws differ. – BlueDogRanch Dec 6 '19 at 18:59
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    I was asking generically but I am wondering mostly about Florida. – David Dec 6 '19 at 20:18
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    If you reasonably believe a stranger in your home means to cause you serious bodily injury or death then the manner in which he entered is (in every scenario I can envision) completely irrelevant. The key word is "reasonable". People frequently feel emboldened by laws like these and don't exercise the caution and respect for life that they should and wind up in jail. In the scenario you described, being awoken by a stranger while sleeping on your couch and shooting them immediately without attempting to determine their identity and purpose, absent something more, would be risky legally. – David Reed Dec 7 '19 at 3:20
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    @David Reed: "People frequently feel emboldened by laws like these". Citation needed. There has been literally one case in the news where someone committed murder and tried to claim "stand your ground." I live in a state where "stand your ground" applies everywhere all the time, and no one feels "emboldened" to commit murder, because you still need to argue that your (or another person's) life was under imminent threat at the time of shooting. – user1167758 Dec 7 '19 at 16:34
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    Unlocked/locked; wide open; removed from the hinges - it doesn't matter : "Unlawful entry is when a person enters the private property of another person without their consent or permission." – legalmatch.com - tl;dr: "Florida statute also specifically outlines the right to use self-defense within one's home and vehicle" (– Dave D) when 'The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of' unlawful entry. – Mazura Dec 7 '19 at 23:05
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Edits added below to outline Florida's laws based on OP's comment

Jurisdiction does matter but here is a general answer regarding "stand your ground" laws. States that have so-called "stand your ground laws" each have their own language concerning the law. "Stand your ground laws" are often misunderstood but, generally, just mean that a person has no duty to retreat when using deadly physical force for purposes of self-defense or the defense of others. Your examples are more akin to "castle doctrine" laws which I touch on below.

Note that all of these laws vary by jurisdiction. I've provided partial examples from Arizona, New York and California. Using deadly physical force for purposes of self-defense or defense of others is complex law and even a complete example from any particular jurisdiction will not be able to cover all circumstances. Each case will be determined by a judge or jury based on the facts of that particular case.

Arizona's "stand your ground" statute, as an example, states:

B. A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force pursuant to this section if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act.

"Stand your ground" simply means that a person doesn't have to first attempt to retreat before resorting to the use of deadly force.

Arizona's statute regarding justification for self-defense states (emphasis mine):

A. Except as provided in subsection B of this section, a person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.

B. The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified:

  1. In response to verbal provocation alone; or

  2. To resist an arrest that the person knows or should know is being made by a peace officer or by a person acting in a peace officer's presence and at his direction, whether the arrest is lawful or unlawful, unless the physical force used by the peace officer exceeds that allowed by law; or

  3. If the person provoked the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless:

(a) The person withdraws from the encounter or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely withdraw from the encounter; and

(b) The other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against the person.

Note the phrase, "extent a reasonable person." This means that the actions of a person using deadly force will be measured against what a "reasonable person" would do in similar circumstances.

Some states have a duty to retreat, particularly when in a public place, before using deadly force. New York, as an example, has a "duty to retreat" before using deadly force except in specific circumstances (emphasis mine):

  1. A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision one unless:

(a) The actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force. Even in such case, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others he or she may avoid the necessity of so doing by retreating; except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is:

(i) in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor; or (ii) a police officer or peace officer or a person assisting a police officer or a peace officer at the latter`s direction, acting pursuant to section 35.30; or

(b) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible criminal sexual act or robbery; or

(c) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary, and the circumstances are such that the use of deadly physical force is authorized by subdivision three of section 35.20.

Castle Doctrine Laws typically refer to what one may do in their own home when it comes to the use of deadly force. Some states have extended the "castle doctrine" to include personal automobiles as well.

California's "castle doctrine" statute, as an example, states that if one is in their own home and someone "unlawfully and forcibly" enters the home one can presume that the person in his or her residence "held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury":

Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

As used in this section, great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury.

In California's statute both the resident and the person using force to gain entry have to know or have reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred. If a person simply entered an unlocked home then the resident would have to have some other reasonable reason to believe that they were in imminent peril of death or great bodily injury.

Wikipedia has a reasonable entry on the adoption of "stand your ground" and "castle doctrine" statutes and gives a state-by-state breakdown of both. Note that these laws have seen a lot of change recently and any particular entry for a state may not be accurate.

Florida's self-defense laws

Florida's "Use or threatened use of force in defense of person" states:

776.012 Use or threatened use of force in defense of person.—

(1) A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

Florida outlines the cases where use, or threatened use, of force is justified. Notice that in the law Florida specifically states that the person threatened does not have a duty to retreat. Florida also specifically states that a person has a "right to stand his or her ground" if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be and is not engaged in criminal activity.

Florida statute also specifically outlines the right to use self-defense within one's home and vehicle. Florida has a "castle doctrine" similar to what was outlined above and similar in nature to New York's and California's laws:

The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle;

Florida has a longer list of exemptions related to who may have used force to enter a home including ownership interest in the property or vehicle, children and grandchildren, the person who engaged defensive force was involved in criminal activity and law enforcement officers.

Florida's Justifiable Use Of Force is chapter 776 discusses when force can be used.

There was an attempt by the Florida legislature in 2019 to change the standard by which use of force could be justified from "reasonably believes" force is necessary to "a reasonably cautious and prudent person in the same circumstances would objectively believe" force was necessary. The bill was withdrawn in May, 2019.

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    Impressive! Do you have any idea how courts have interpreted these laws? Judicial decisions often give a very different view of what the law requires than the words of the statute. – Just a guy Dec 6 '19 at 21:24
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    @Justaguy - because of prosecutorial and court decisions many states with "stand your ground" laws have enacted further laws related to self-defense. One of the more interesting ones is the requirement that, once someone claims self-defense, the prosecution has to prove it wasn't. Prior to these changes when one claimed self-defense they were required to prove it was self-defense. There's an interesting article here that discusses Florida changes: tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/… – Dave D Dec 6 '19 at 23:05
  • Thanks. I'll have to take a look at that article. – Just a guy Dec 7 '19 at 0:10
  • Does Arizona's self defence clause 3 mean you can start a fight by punching someone, tell them you give up, and if they keep fighting, shoot them in the face and class it as self-defence? – JeffUK Dec 7 '19 at 15:27
  • @JeffUK It sounds like it. The second party can no longer claim that they were defending themselves when they continued beating you after you gave up. – Barmar Dec 7 '19 at 18:55
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Absolutely No

Unlawful entry into someone's property depends on the circumstances, but on land without barriers, generally you need to make the person aware that coming onto the property is trespassing and violators will be prosecuted and there is differing laws in jurisdictions to what you can do to get trespassing to be acknowledge, but they all require some notice of violation in areas that can be accessed by the public.

However, if it's clear that the building is not open to the public, entry by any means with out the invitation of the property owners or legal residence of the property. Thus, the fact that the doors to a house were not locked does not give invitation to everyone to free entry into the house. If someone who shouldn't be there is skulking around, the homeowner has a right to defend themselves, their property, and their family and friends to the extent necessary to eliminate the threat.

That said...

Technical No

Stand your ground laws never apply to this situation anywhere in the United States. Ever. The situation as described is called "Castle Doctrine" and is enforced in all 50 states in the United States as well as territories. (Technically codified in 49 states, but DC v. Heller makes it to Case Law under the second amendment). Stand your ground applies to situations in a public setting where the intent of the hostile party is to cause harm to the person exercising self-defense. Stand your ground laws (and their opposite number, duty to flee) apply to places where both parties have a right to be in the place at the same time. Castle Doctrine applies only when the aggressor party has no right to be in a place and the defending party has a right to be there. Neither apply if both parties have no right to be in a place.

Stand your ground also applies to timeliness, such that a store will be under "Stand your Ground" during posted business hours, but "Castle Doctrine" during times when closed (and similarly to the common space of businesses which double as the owner's home).

Duty to Flee permits lethal force only when necessary to eliminate the threat and there is no possible way to leave the situation. Again, this only is enforced if both parties have a right to be in the place when the incident occurs.

In all conditions, of self-defense, self-defense is an affirmative defense meaning that you can only be found not guilty of a crime due to self-defense by asserting that as your defense. The investigators may prosecute you regardless of if you raised it or not, if they feel they can prove that it wasn't self defense. Affirmative Defenses flip the burden of proof onto the defendant, meaning that they have to provide testimony but it is not as high as "Beyond Reasonable Doubt", since in order to invoke Self-Defense, you do have to agree with the prosecutors that you did in fact kill someone. (Legally, killing a person is always a homicide, but murder is always Unjustified Homicide while Self Defense is Justified Homicide. Since murder convictions require that the Prosecution prove both that a homicide happened and that the manner it happened was unjustified, pleading self-defense admits that you did kill the guy you're accused of killing... now we need to figure out if you were justified in doing so.)

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