Opinion

Castle Doctrine and your right to self-defense | Firearms Lawyer

Remember the “Craigslist” murder of James Sanders in Edgewood?

In that case, a local homeowner was killed by three men and a woman that invaded his home and terrorized his family. That case — and others like it — has people in Washington thinking about what happens before, during and after a shooting.

Many local armed citizens have attended the Firearms Academy of Seattle. Marty Hayes, a former law enforcement instructor who started the FAS facility in Onalaska, Wash., has a law degree and teaches the law of self-defense, right alongside other practical aspects of shooting.

Marty has been calling the Legislature’s attention to a 2005 Washington State Supreme Court ruling that could make it harder for armed citizens to defend ourselves in court in cases involving self-defense.

In the 2005 case of State v. Brightman, the defendant and another man got into a fight near Titlow Beach in Tacoma. The defendant pulled a gun during the fight and killed his opponent. Then, Brightman claimed that he shot the gun by accident — he was only trying to pistol whip the victim.  The defendant made an unsuccessful attempt to argue self-defense in court. The Brightman court decision stated plainly that defendants claiming self-defense shouldn’t also claim that their gun went off by accident.

Whatever the merits of the Brightman decision, some legislators in Olympia are hoping to make Washington law more favorable for armed homeowners (and less favorable to crews like the ones that committed the Craiglist murder in nearby Edgewood). Senate Bill 5418 would give Washingtonians a “Castle Doctrine” law.

There is presently no duty to retreat if you are in your home, place of business or another place where you have a right to be. SB 5418 is important because it would create a presumption that a homeowner is justified in using deadly force to stop a home invasion.

With cuts in law enforcement imminent on every side, the law stands a chance of being enacted. The law in Washington is already fairly clear when it comes to defending your home. Prosecutors in Washington are usually very careful in applying the law of self-defense in such situations.

Even though you are normally on safe ground defending your home with deadly force, things can get very dicey in cases of road rage and carjackings. Unique facts are presented in each case where there is a claim of self-defense, and there are many conflicting and confusing judicial interpretations that might come to bear in any given case.

Tell your lawmakers in Olympia that you demand a law that tells criminals loudly and clearly that Washington state is not a safe place to commit violent crimes.

Senate Bill 5418

The proposed law states:

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another person when using deadly force pursuant to RCW 9A.16.050(1)(c) if:

(a) The person against whom the deadly force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered a dwelling, residence, other place of abode, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from a dwelling, residence, other place of abode, or occupied vehicle; and

b) The person who uses deadly force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

 

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