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Michigan’s Castle Doctrine Law and You
by Steve Dulan
Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners

Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners

Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners

Lansing, MI - -(AmmoLand.com)- Occasionally MCRGO receives a request for a review of Michigan’s Castle Doctrine law.

So, here we go … MCL 780.951 (Public Act 311 of 2006) states:

“(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), it is a rebuttable presumption in a civil or criminal case that an individual who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force under section 2 of the self-defense act has an honest and reasonable belief that imminent death of, sexual assault of, or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another individual will occur if both of the following apply:

(a) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used is in the process of breaking and entering a dwelling or business premises or committing home invasion or has broken and entered a dwelling or business premises or committed home invasion and is still present in the dwelling or business premises, or is unlawfully attempting to remove another individual from a dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle against his or her will.

(b) The individual using deadly force or force other than deadly force honestly and reasonably believes that the individual is engaging in conduct described in subdivision (a).”

The basic rule on use of force in self-defense is that the force must be proportional to the threat.

Essentially, deadly force is only authorized in self-defense when preventing: great bodily harm that could lead death, death, or rape (known modernly in Miichigan as sexual assault.) The individual using deadly force in legitimate self defense must have an actual belief that he is preventing one of those three things, and that belief has to be reasonable under all the circumstances. In other words, a jury would have to agree that, if they were in the same situation, they would share that same belief that great bodily harm, death, or sexual assault were about to occur.

Prior to enactment of this law, which became effective as of October 1, 2006, there was a possibility that a homeowner who used deadly force in defense would have found himself charged criminally or sued by the intruder, or the intruder’s family. This is because deadly force is NEVER appropriate when defending property. In other words, it could have been argued that the intruder perhaps meant only to commit a property crime and, therefore, deadly force was not proportionate. This is still possible under the current law. An individual who breaks in to one of the places listed above may not present a deadly threat and it is possible that in some circumstances, use of deadly force may be still considered disproportionate. However, the presumption is that someone who breaks into a home or business, or who attempts to drag a motorist from a car, does mean to do something that calls for deadly force in self defense.

This statute gives the benefit of the doubt to the home or business owner or motorist. However, it is not a blanket license to kill. Remember that a firearm is always considered deadly force and use your guns wisely, judiciously and effectively. The presumption raised by this statutes is rebuttable. Meaning, that a bloodthirsty or negligent individual who shoots at someone who is found to have been clearly not a threat, may still run afoul of the law.

As a practical matter, I always recommend caution and shooting only as a last resort. However, as a result of this statute, which was introduced and supported by members of your MCRGO leadhership, if someone kicks your front door down at 3:00 a.m., you no longer have to hesitate before defending yourself and your family. This bill essentially codified common sense in that most people know that someone who would do such a thing is probably a dangerous person intent on harming others. The burden of proof is now on the intruder to prove that there is no way that the homeowner, business owner, or motorist could have felt seriously threatened.

The presumption DOES NOT APPLY if:

“(a) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used, including an owner, lessee, or titleholder, has the legal right to be in the dwelling, business premises, or vehicle and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order, a probation order, or a parole order of no contact against that person.

(b) The individual removed or being removed from the dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle is a child or grandchild of, or is otherwise in the lawful custody of or under the lawful guardianship of, the individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used.

(c) The individual who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force is engaged in the commission of a crime or is using the dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle to further the commission of a crime.

(d) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used is a peace officer who has entered or is attempting to enter a dwelling, business premises, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties in accordance with applicable law.

(e) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used is the spouse or former spouse of the individual using deadly force or force other than deadly force, an individual with whom the individual using deadly force or other than deadly force has or had a dating relationship, an individual with whom the individual using deadly force or other than deadly force has had a child in common, or a resident or former resident of his or her household, and the individual using deadly force or other than deadly force has a prior history of domestic violence as the aggressor.”

So, the presumption only applies to those with “clean hands.” The rule is meant to protect innocent citizens who are forced to defend themselves.

On a related practical note, the tacticians recommend that all of us who are armed also have a good, bright flashlight so that we can avoid the tragic result of shooting a loved one by mistake. Chance favors the prepared mind.

About:
Steve Dulan (www.StevenWDulan.com) is a member of the Board of Directors of the MCRGO and the MCRGO Foundation, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the MCRGO Foundation. He is an attorney in private practice in East Lansing and Adjunct Professor of firearms law at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School. as well as an NRA Life Member.

About:
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Formed from just eight people in 1996, we now have thousands of members and numerous affiliated clubs across the state. We’re growing larger and more effective every day.

Our mission statement is: “Promoting safe use and ownership of firearms through education, litigation, and legislation”

  • 19 User comments to “Michigan’s Castle Doctrine Law and You”

    1. So much easier under Florida law.

      The bad guy is in your home/car/store/boat/plane/warehouse and doesn’t belong there?

      That’s burglary.

      Deadly force is authorized to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

      Burglary is a forcible felony.

      I recall one case in N. Florida where an elderly man looking out the door into his carport observed a young thug trying to hotwire his car. The elderly gent retrieved his 9mm and emptied the magazine through the door killing the thug. The grand jury no-billed the gent – but the thug’s accomplice faced felony murder charges.

      We call this, “A correct result.”

    2. [...] Michigan’s Castle Doctrine Law and You [...]

    3. Soldier53 on October 8, 2009 at 2:12 AM said:

      My step-son tried to kill me and I stopped him by pulling my hand gun and went to jail in mi, and the cops took all my guns? I made him leave my home that night but the cops will not give me my guns back and are trying to put me in jail for 4 to 10 years? it looks bad for me, and i have a ccw, and did it by the book? cops lie and so do courts! if i let him kill me he would have not spent a day in jail he’s 25 and I’m over 50 and 100% disabled VET. so much for the law!?

    4. Sorry to hear that soldier. Do you have a lawyer? I don’t think the castle doctrine law is as cut and dry as it should be and more then likely wont be used as a defense unless it is brought up.

      Since when is rape considered as bad as homicide? I don’t like that part. IT gives the woman an open season permit on men…all they have to do is cry rape.

    5. As a woman who has been raped, and years later attacked by a stranger who assaulted and tried to rape me, I can tell you rape IS as bad as homicide. And knowing he is only spending 5 yrs in prison when I have to deal for the rest of my life is worse than the act itself. Trust me, I would rather die than go through this again.

    6. Smarter on March 5, 2010 at 2:48 PM said:

      Douggie,

      Heather’s right. I’m going to go with any FBI level 1 crime should be game for castle doctrine. The gun charges against Soldier53 will more than likely be dropped. That case won’t hold. I’m an assistant DA in an “unnamed city”. We wouldn’t waste our time with that. It’s way to involved and complicated. Hold your ground, and don’t accept a plea.

    7. To my thinking if someone try’s to invade any space myself or my family occupy with malice intent ,what the law dictates is irrelevant. I as well as my wife will protect ourselves and our family,property with extreme prejudice.We pay our taxes,we work,were part of our community.Ray Mi.

    8. John Doe on November 1, 2010 at 3:14 PM said:

      Douggie,

      Unless you’re planning on crashing through somebody’s window at 3am, then the rape part shouldn’t be a problem. You say it’s ‘open season’ like women are just going to start walking around shooting people; it still has to fit with the other parts of the law.

      I do like Bambi’s example from Florida, props to the old guy for emptying the mag through the door.

    9. i would like to no if some one was trying to break into my home and got in and i was in bed or in the other room, if i so that he or she had a gun or a knife is it ok for me to shoot and not get in truble for shooting the person like going to jail or to prison thank you and god bless

    10. “…is unlawfully attempting to remove another individual from a dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle against his or her will.” … OCCUPIED VEHICLE!!! Now, someone please explain to me why in the world I have to carry my weapon in the truck of my car, unloaded, and with the ammo in a different compartment than the weapon when transporting it for for a legal purpose without a CPL. If my self defense tool is not on my person then how do they expect me to defend myself and/or my family in the instance of a car jacking with a weapon? They need to extend OC to ones vehicle. plain and simple.

    11. Randy Saunders on July 30, 2011 at 10:06 AM said:

      Gun laws in general are a confusing nightmare that seems to favor the criminals. Michigan in particular is a maze of contradictions. I hear about law biding citizens being prosecuted for defending themselves in their own homes because the intruder was not holding a weapon of sorts. WTH a weapon is not always visible if its dark. No way to positively know if they are going to kill or injure you or just steal grandma’s solid gold broach.

    12. [...] arrive, and it certainly shows that the bad guy had the capability to harm anyone in the house. Michigan's Castle Doctrine Law and You Personally, I would position myself to cover the stairway leading to my family's bedrooms and call [...]

    13. I have a “bad guy” Lurking around my home. I had mud smears on back door along w a partial handprint. I had police out & they wrote it all off to a dog. I’m sorry but dogs don’t smear diagonally nor does it look like finger smears nor do they leave hand prints. (This was a friday afternoon while noone is usually home.) The following Tuesday evening my dogs were going nuts (not in a way that they saw a rabbit) & did this 4x w/in a short period of time. (Maybe 30-45 min) I went outside w a 12ga loaded w birdshot. My horses were at full alert as well.
      There’s myself (female), my 12 yr old daughter & my female friend living in my home. ANYONE who does not come to my door that late at night is an apparent threat to us. Am I to wait like a scared rabbit inside my house hoping the police get to my home before the guy outside gets in? Or can I protect my daughter & friend & properety if need be??

    14. @ niki, my thought on this is that once you exited your home with a loaded weapon, you showed intent to harm, and would be at fault if you used the weapon outside the home. now what the law will look at is 1. you did not call cops to report suspicious activity of criminal tresspass, and 2. once you exited your house with weapon, you are a vigilante, that took the law into your own hands…

      you must call the cops to report the suspicious activity(while loading gun). stay inside. check that your home is secured inside, (locked doors). do not open doors until a cop comes to the door and identifies as such.

      once you exit your homes interior without the call for help, and if stuff hits the fan, you are at fault…anytime you feel threatened from anything in the dark, do not fear calling the police. thier job is to come and secure, and report. each time you file a report it just looks better if someone does intrude into your home and you use deadly force…

    15. “First lets shoot all the Lawyers!

    16. the government tries to control & dictate how us law abiding citizens can/can’t defend ourselves…….as long as we pay our taxes, WE should be able to decide how to defend ourselves in our homes & on our properties……….why should anybody else make our decisions on self defense?? i live in michigan & i can and will use my shotgun in my house against any intruder………that is my God given right to defend my home, family & property……and I absolutely refuse to let the government or any other person make that decision for me

    17. You don’t have the time to try and figger out what a persons intentions are,and you shouldn’t have to.go figger.

    18. Randolph on April 19, 2012 at 1:21 PM said:

      You know what, some things are more important that legal ramifications (ask heather). There’s some merit to doing the necessary thing, and hoping afterwards that your community/DA/jury supports you. I’d rather do time than be a putz & let someone harm my family. Occasionally, there’s a time to say “screw the rules”. I’ll follow my gut. . .and protect my family at any cost.

    19. rinoturd on May 29, 2014 at 2:07 AM said:

      while back my neighbors dog died ,that next night the house was broke into ,the lady pulled a gun and he fled .found out intruder threw poisonous piece of meat over the fence night before and he knew her husband was out of town working ,so it was good the lady was ready with her pistols.

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