Castle Doctrine States

Castle doctrine laws specifically waive the duty to retreat—meaning individuals have a duty to try to retreat from an attacker before they use force and provide individuals the right to use reasonable force to protect themselves while in their home—including deadly force. Castle doctrines lessen the possibility of retreat and provide the victim the opportunity to use deadly force. However, more generally speaking, the castle doctrine is not a defined law that can be invoked. It is rather a set of principles that can be incorporated into many jurisdictions.

There are also other types of doctrines such as the make-my-day statute, that came to be used in the U.S. in Colorado in 1985. The law shields people from criminal activity for using force against a home invader, including deadly force. The term, “make my day”, was popularized by a 1983 Hollywood film, Sudden Impact. Other laws include “stand your ground”, that extends upon the castle doctrine, and “duty to retreat”, where one has a legal requirement to retreat in a violent situation if and when it is safe to do so. Some states have also extended their castle doctrine laws to protect individuals from civil liability.

Castle Doctrine States

In total, there are thirty-eight states that do not have a duty to retreat. However, these states do vary in the application of self-defense laws as they can be broken down further into states that incorporate the “stand your ground doctrine” or the castle doctrine.

In total twenty states use the castle doctrine while eighteen states incorporate the “stand your ground doctrine”. If one is to break this down further to a state to state level, there are slight differences within the legislature and its wording that could potentially affect the outcome of a proceeding. Take for example, the state of Montana, a state that applies the castle doctrine, that refers to the right of an individual to use of force in defense of “occupied structure” while in another castle doctrine state, such as Iowa, the law states that one has no duty to retreat from their home or place of work in defense of themselves or a third party. 

The castle doctrine states are: 

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Indiana
  5. Iowa
  6. Michigan
  7. Mississippi
  8. Missouri
  9. Montana
  10. Nevada
  11. New Hampshire
  12. North Carolina
  13. North Dakota
  14. Ohio
  15. South Dakota
  16. Tennessee
  17. Texas
  18. Utah
  19. West Virginia
  20. Wyoming

Stand Your Ground States

There is another type of doctrine called “stand your ground.” States that have “stand your ground laws” extend the castle doctrine to any place where that person is entitled to be. Eighteen states have stand your ground laws in the U.S. This law provides legal defense to a person who is charged with various use of force crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, or aggravated assault, among others. However the “stand your ground doctrine” has been criticized by some who claim these “stand your ground laws” contribute to and are associated with increases in firearm homicides and the overall homicide rate. Hence these laws are often labeled as “shoot first” laws by opposition groups.

There are a total of eighteen stand your ground states. Just like with the castle doctrine, the application of these laws varies from state to state. While there are many similarities between the “stand your ground” and the castle doctrine self-defense laws, one main distinction between them is that some stand your ground states (California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington) have case law/precedent or jury instructions.

The stand your ground states are:

  1.  Alabama
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Florida
  5. Georgia
  6. Idaho
  7. Illinois
  8. Kansas
  9. Kentucky
  10. Louisiana
  11. New Mexico
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Oregon
  14. Pennsylvania
  15. South Carolina
  16. Vermont
  17. Virginia
  18. Washington

Duty to Retreat States

The duty to retreat means that one is required by law to retreat from a potential violent situation. A threatened person can not harm another in self defense and when it is possible and safe to retreat the individual must do so by law. Some states opt for the duty to retreat law, over others like the castle doctrine, as they believe self-defense laws that allow for violence encourage it and lead to more gun violence and a higher homicide rate.

There are twelve duty to retreat states, which are largely found towards the north-eastern part of the United States. These twelve states include: Maine, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Hawaii. Similarly to other self-defense laws, their application is different from state to state, with different wording in the legislature creating different parameters for duty to retreat states. 

The duty to retreat states are:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Delaware
  3. Hawaii
  4. Maine
  5. Maryland
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Minnesota
  8. Nebraska
  9. New Jersey
  10. New York
  11. Rhode Island
  12. Wisconsin

Self Defense Laws by State

Alabama - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,141

#16 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

23.6

#4 in the US

Alaska - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

175

#41 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

23.5

#5 in the US

Arizona - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,265

#12 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

16.7

#19 in the US

Arkansas - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

673

#26 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

22.6

#7 in the US

California - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

3,449

#2 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

8.5

#42 in the US

Colorado - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

922

#19 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

15.4

#22 in the US

Connecticut - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

219

#39 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

6

#45 in the US

Delaware - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

135

#44 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

14.4

#24 in the US

Florida - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

3,041

#3 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.7

#28 in the US

Georgia - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,897

#4 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

17.7

#15 in the US

Hawaii - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

50

#50 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

3.4

#49 in the US

Idaho - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

321

#36 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

17.6

#16 in the US

Illinois - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,745

#7 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

14.1

#25 in the US

Indiana - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,159

#15 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

17.3

#17 in the US

Iowa - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

351

#34 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

11.2

#37 in the US

Kansas - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

494

#30 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

16.9

#20 in the US

Kentucky - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

902

#20 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

20.1

#11 in the US

Louisiana - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,183

#13 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

26.3

#2 in the US

Maine - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

153

#43 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

10.4

#39 in the US

Maryland - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

803

#24 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.5

#29 in the US

Massachusetts - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

268

#37 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

3.7

#50 in the US

Michigan - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,454

#10 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

14.6

#26 in the US

Minnesota - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

513

#29 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

8.9

#43 in the US

Mississippi - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

818

#23 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

28.6

#1 in the US

Missouri - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,426

#11 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

23.9

#6 in the US

Montana - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

238

#38 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

20.9

#12 in the US

Nebraska - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

197

#40 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

10.1

#40 in the US

Nevada - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

547

#28 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

17

#18 in the US

New Hampshire - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

128

#45 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

8.9

#44 in the US

New Jersey - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

443

#32 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

5

#46 in the US

New Mexico - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

479

#31 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

22.7

#8 in the US

New York - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

1,052

#18 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

5.3

#47 in the US

North Carolina - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,699

#8 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

16

#21 in the US

North Dakota - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

100

#47 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.8

#30 in the US

Ohio - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,764

#5 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

15.2

#23 in the US

Oklahoma - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

826

#22 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

20.7

#13 in the US

Oregon - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

592

#27 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13

#31 in the US

Pennsylvania - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,752

#6 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.6

#32 in the US

Rhode Island - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

54

#49 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

5.1

#48 in the US

South Carolina - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,131

#17 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

22

#9 in the US

South Dakota - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

120

#46 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.6

#33 in the US

Tennessee - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

1,473

#9 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

21.3

#10 in the US

Texas - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

4,164

#1 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

14.2

#27 in the US

Utah - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

429

#33 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.6

#34 in the US

Vermont - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

76

#48 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

11.6

#38 in the US

Virginia - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

1,174

#14 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

13.4

#35 in the US

Washington - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Stand Your Ground

GUN DEATHShelp

864

#21 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

10.9

#41 in the US

West Virginia - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

325

#35 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

18.1

#14 in the US

Wisconsin - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Duty to Retreat

GUN DEATHShelp

717

#25 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

12.2

#36 in the US

Wyoming - Self Defense Laws

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do_not_disturb_on

SELF DEFENSE LAWShelp

Castle Doctrine

GUN DEATHShelp

154

#42 in the US

GUN DEATH RATEhelp

25.9

#3 in the US