Missouri Castle Doctrine: When can a homeowner shoot an intruder?

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 24 at 6:06 AM

(KMOV)  -- Police say a homeowner shot a suspected intruder who said he was 'drunk' when he tried to enter a Tower Grove home he thought was his Wednesday morning.

Jared Harris, 32, was charged Tuesday with first-degree trespassing.

Police said Harris was intoxicated as he tried to gain entry into a home in the 4000 block of Humphrey shortly after 1 a.m. The 47-year-old homeowner heard a noise of the door knob moving and opened the door and confronted the suspect.

According  to authorities, a small altercation took place as the suspect still worked to get into the home. That's when the homeowner pulled out a handgun and shot the suspect in the right calf.

News 4 has learned the homeowner might be protected by Missouri's Castle Doctrine, which allows a a person to shoot someone in their home without fear of criminal charges.

But there are certain limits to the law.

According to local attorney Steven Waterkotte, there are three elements of the law.

First, the person using deadly force must be a legal occupant of the house, which means they have to live there or be a guest. Second, the person on the return end of the deadly force must be making an unlawful entry.

Last, there has to be a presumption that harm will occur.

"The issue is you have to believe that the use of force, including deadly force, is necessary to defend yourself," said Waterkotte.

But it isn't always clear if the Castle Doctrine applies, because the presumption that harm will occur isn't always clear cut.

"Needless to say a lot of these kind of cases go to a jury trial and it becomes a factual issue for the jury to resolve," said Waterkotte.

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