An Overview of Missouri’s Stand Your Ground Law
In April 2023, an unarmed 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot twice in Kansas City after he rang the doorbell to the wrong house. The shooter, an 84-year-old male named Andrew Lester, claimed he shot the teenager because he feared for his life.
Andrew Lester has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. But while the case is still ongoing, the incident has sparked widespread debate in the media, and more people are beginning to question the scope of Missouri’s stand-your-ground laws and whether the law is applicable in this case.
Stand your ground laws refer to self-defense laws that allow individuals to use force to protect their homes or anywhere else that they have a legal right to be from dangerous intruders. These laws exist in various forms across all 50 states and specify the limits and the amount of force a person can use to lawfully defend their places of residence.
Anyone who uses excessive force against a perceived assailant or intruder would likely face criminal charges and have difficulty relying on the stand-your-ground law to defend their actions.
The question of whether the stand-your-ground law applies to the Ralph Yarl case can only be decided by the judge and jury. But if you’re a Missouri resident, this guide explains how Missouri’s stand-your-ground law works to help you understand your limits and the level of force you’re permitted to use to defend your home or dwelling place. Keep reading to learn more.
How Missouri’s Stand Your Ground Laws Work
Missouri’s stand-your-ground law is based on the old common law principle known as the “castle doctrine.” According to this doctrine, individuals are entitled to use reasonable force or deadly force, depending on the circumstances, to protect themselves and their homes from intruders. The rationale for this principle is based on the premise that anyone who invades your home is likely to do you harm, and you should be able to defend yourself appropriately without offending the law.
For those facing criminal charges because they injured or killed a supposed intruder, the stand-your-ground law can help establish an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is one in which the accused person admits to their involvement in the acts that constitute a criminal offense but claims that their actions were justified under the law.
In this context, a criminal defendant may be able to avoid a conviction for causing death or injury to another by admitting their actions as long as they acted within the limits of the stand-your-ground law.
Is There a Duty To Retreat Under Missouri’s Stand Your Ground Law?
Before Missouri’s stand-your-ground laws were enacted in 2016, the state’s self-defense laws required individuals, especially gun owners, to flee/retreat or attempt to flee from a dangerous situation before using (deadly) force to defend themselves as long as they have the chance to do so. This is known as the duty to retreat. At that time, any person who used force against an assailant without first attempting to leave the scene found it difficult to claim that they acted in self-defense.
Under the stand-your-ground dispensation, you do not have a duty to retreat from an intruder even if you can, as long as you’re on your private property or anywhere else you are permitted to be. The allow allows you to ‘stand your ground’ and defend yourself or any other person in your home using physical force if necessary.
When Is the Use of Deadly Force Permitted Under Missouri Law?
Although you can use physical force to defend yourself and your home, such force must be reasonable and equivalent to the threat you face.
You can only use deadly or lethal force if the following conditions are met:
- You reasonably believe that deadly force is needed to protect yourself or others against death, serious physical injury, or any other violent crime.
- The recipient of the deadly force (the intruder) unlawfully entered or attempted to enter your home, vehicle, or any other private property you lawfully occupy.
For example, if someone enters your premises visibly armed (such as an armed robber), it would be reasonable to believe they intended to harm or use unlawful force against you. You can lawfully use deadly force against such a person in such circumstances.
But if you use deadly force on a person when these conditions are absent, it would be difficult to defend yourself from criminal charges using the stand-your-ground law.
Got More Questions About Missouri’s Stand Your Ground Law? Contact the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Centre for Answers
The stand-your-ground law in Missouri allows you to secure your home and protect yourself from external threats and intruders. However, you must be careful to act only within the bounds of the law. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing criminal charges for assault, murder, or other related criminal offenses. If you are already facing such charges, you can defend yourself in court by showing that you did not use excessive force against your supposed assailant or act outside the scope of the law in any way.
Although you can represent yourself in court, your case would likely fare better if you get a skilled criminal defense lawyer who understands the intricacies of the stand-your-ground law. They can help you build your case and work to ensure your freedom from the criminal justice system.
At the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, we understand how Missouri’s criminal and self-defense laws work. This understanding results from years of criminal defense law experience, during which we have helped many criminal defendants get justice and successfully overcome their charges. We can offer you the same quality service and help you fight your charges in court.
Our skilled attorneys have a firm grasp on the fine points of Missouri’s stand-your-ground law and related Gun Laws, so you can rely on us to answer any questions you might have.
Give us a call today. Let us assess your case and help you prepare a solid defense that could lead to a positive outcome.