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What Is the Castle Doctrine?

The Guyger Case

In September 2018, ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger made national headlines after she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment “commando-style” and fatally shot her neighbor, Botham Shem Jean (26). During the trial, the defense argued that Guyger sincerely believed she was acting in self-defense and implored the jury to choose the lesser charge of manslaughter. Interestingly, the judge rocked the boat – and scandalized the public – by instructing the jury to consider several factors, including Texas’ “Castle Doctrine,” before deciding a verdict.

In Texas, the Castle Doctrine is a type of “stand your ground law,” which states that deadly force can be used to protect one’s home and property. In other words, a homeowner can avoid legal prosecution for harming or killing a dangerous intruder. But Botham Shem Jean was not an intruder, so the use of the Castle Doctrine in the Guyger case immediately sparked conversations about racial bias, police brutality and corruption, as well as one’s personal safety in their home. Jurors found Guyger guilty of murder two weeks ago, but the questions and debates are still circulating America’s social consciousness.

My Home Is My Castle: Understanding the Castle Doctrine in Georgia

Texas is not the only state to have a Castle Doctrine. In Georgia, a homeowner can legally shoot an intruder so long as they “reasonably” believe such force is required to stop a “forcible” and “unlawful” entry or attack. To no one’s surprise, the Castle Doctrine is often utilized as a defense tactic in Georgia murder trials involving home invasions and accidental fatalities.

The Castle Doctrine can only be utilized as a defense tactic if the incident reflects the following criteria:

  • The intrusion is violent and tumultuous.
  • The resident believes that their life is in danger (or that someone within the residence is in danger).
  • The intruder is not a family member or resident.
  • The resident believes the intruder broke in to commit a crime and deadly force is the only means of stopping them.

The Castle Doctrine extends to temporary habitations, such as hotel rooms, but does not apply to a neighbor’s property or conflicts occurring outside a dwelling. Also, this level of violence is only justifiable if it’s employed to prevent other acts of violence, not property theft or damage.

Have You Been Shot by a Negligent or Malicious Party?

Contact the gunshot injury attorney at Pratt Clay, LLC if you or a loved one has been suffered a serious gunshot wound. In certain cases, the Castle Doctrine may be at odds with Georgia’s premises liability laws. Our trial-tested legal team can investigate the incident, explore your legal options, and help you pursue a recovery that provides for your injury-related losses.

Contact Pratt Clay, LLC at (404) 998-5258 to arrange a free consultation today.