In 2007, the Mississippi Legislature made a drastic change in the law of self-defense. Known as the "Castle Doctrine", the new law reads that a homeowner is "presumed to have reasonably feared imminent death or great bodily harm, or the commission of a felony upon him or another or upon his dwelling ... or against his business or place of employment or the immediate premises of such business or place of employment, if the person against whom the defensive force was used, was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, ... business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof or if that person had unlawfully removed or was attempting to unlawfully remove another against the other person's will from that dwelling, ... business, place of employment or the immediate premises thereof and the person who used defensive force knew or had reason to believe that the forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred."
The law has been used to justify killing people who break into unoccupied cars which are parked on the street, people who steal from stores, and people who break into houses. I can easily understand justifying the killing of an intruder who breaks into your house. However, I find it very disturbing that I can also shoot someone who is stealing my car which is parked out on the street. That person is no threat to me or my family.
Of course, the decision to charge a person is left up to a grand jury. I am currently representing a young man on appeal who shot two men who had broken into his apartment. He was charged with murder and aggravated assault and a jury found him guilty on both counts. The trial judge did not grant him a jury instruction advising the jury about the "Castle Doctrine". We did not represent him at trial but have taken over on appeal. Hopefully we can convince an appellate court to reverse the case for the failure to give a "Castle Doctrine" instruction.
The "Castle Doctrine" has caused much confusion and uneven application in the Jackson metro area. In the end, your home is your castle unless the grand jury says otherwise.
Charles R. "Chuck" Mullins is a criminal defense lawyer practicing in the Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi area and all over the state. If you or your loved one has been charged with a crime, call Chuck.