The Castle Doctrine and its Application in Rhode Island

What is The Castle Doctrine?

Our Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer brings justice to all clients needing defenseThe Castle Doctrine allows a person who is attacked within their home to respond with reasonable means of self-defense. Reasonable means of self-defense may include use of lethal force in circumstances where there is reasonable belief of threat of serious and imminent bodily injury or death. There is no duty to retreat from the home.

What is The Difference Between the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws?

Both permit those who feel a reasonable threat of serious and imminent bodily injury or death to “meet force with force” rather than retreat. However, the Castle Doctrine is arguably narrower and pertains to self-defense without retreat in a one’s home, while Stand Your Ground can apply anywhere, not just within one’s home.

Does Rhode Island Have a Castle Doctrine?

Yes. In fact, Rhode Island’s statute reads, “[i]n the event that any person shall die or shall sustain a personal injury in any way or for any cause while in the commission of any criminal offense enumerated in §§ 11-8-2 – 11-8-6, it shall be rebuttably presumed as a matter of law in any civil or criminal proceeding that the owner, tenant, or occupier of the place where the offense was committed acted by reasonable means in self-defense and in the reasonable belief that the person engaged in the criminal offense was about to inflict great bodily harm or death upon that person or any other individual lawfully in the place where the criminal offense was committed. There shall be no duty on the part of an owner, tenant, or occupier to retreat from any person engaged in the commission of any criminal offense enumerated in §§ 11-8-2 – 11-8-6.” (RIGL § 11-8-8 Injury or death – Defense).

When May Rhode Island’s Castle Doctrine Apply?

Rhode Island’s Castle Doctrine applies in circumstances where a person in is defending oneself against a criminal who is committing a crime defined in Rhode Island General Laws §§ 11-8-2 through 11-8-6 for “breaking and entering” into a “dwelling house.”

Therefore, the Castle Doctrine applies when one defends themselves against person(s) who broke in, entered without breaking in but intended to harm or commit a felony, and when one defends themselves against person(s) who were initially invitees (or “social guests”) but later directed to leave and did not, but rather attacked.

There is one important exception to this protection: when someone is attacked by someone who also lives in the home. In such circumstances, one must retreat before resorting to use of lethal force.

Further, the Rhode Island statute provides no protection to those attacked in an outside area (rather than a “dwelling place”) and do not attempt to retreat first. In all cases where § 11-8-8 and the relevant case law does not apply, the basic law of self-defense does apply. This means that when faced even with lethal force, one must retreat or attempt to retreat if (1) an avenue is available to do so and (2) if this avenue of retreat is known to the person being attacked.

Does Rhode Island Have Specific Requirements In Regard To The Nature of the Building or Dwelling Place In Order To Assert Self-Defense Under The Castle Doctrine?

The law is drafted so broadly that if there is a building and you are in it, you have a legal presumption of reasonable self-defense if you defend yourself against someone who is breaking in, out of the belief that the person was about to inflict great bodily harm or death. You do not need to attempt to retreat and you need not own or rent the building, you only need to be an occupant of the building. Such “dwelling places” include banks, churches, ships, schools, and even railroad cars.

For more information, contact our skilled Rhode Island criminal defense attorneys at Abilheira Law today. Call us now (401) 245-5100.