A St. Louis Missouri couple have garnered national attention for their actions involving their firearms while at their home during a protest, which has now led to Felony criminal charges. To add to this drama the Missouri Governor has stated that he would pardon the couple, and interestingly the Attorney General has put himself into the case by filing a brief and demanding charges be dropped.
According to a CNN Article, ‘”It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St. Louis,” Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said in a statement.
In Missouri, and according to the local prosecutor, these actions are considered a Felony. However, in Michigan, the alleged conduct described would be most similar to Michigan’s brandishing law, found at MCL Sec. 750.234e. This crime is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, which means it is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense. ‘”Brandishing” is defined as: to point, wave about, or display in a threatening manner with the intent to induce fear in another person.’ We’ve also previously addressed brandishing.
The Missouri Attorney General has stated that the charges are ‘outrageous’, but he has also cited that the actions of the couple fall under presumptive self-defense commonly referred to as the “Castle Doctrine”. As Michigan gun lawyers we have no opinion regarding Missouri’s castle doctrine, but we also don’t think our law has any application to the Missouri situation whatsoever.
What is the Castle Doctrine in Michigan?
Like Missouri, Michigan also has a Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine in Michigan is a statutory legal defense and principle that you have the right to defend your Castle, your home, which is known as a dwelling. It may also apply to your business, or car, or boat, place of abode. However, there are very specific elements that are required for this legal presumption to apply.
Castle Doctrine is a legal presumption. This means that if you meet the requirements of the law it is presumed that you acted in legal and permissible self-defense. Essentially it provides the home-owner additional protections under the law compared to self-defense outside the home where you must prove that you acted honestly and reasonably in the defense of yourself or another that were in imminent danger of death, serious bodily injury or sexual assault.
In Michigan, Castle Doctrine summarily requires a two-prong analysis. One objective, one subjective. Is there a breaking and entering or home invasion? Do you have an ‘honest and reasonable’ belief that there is a breaking and entering or home invasion? If the answer is Yes to both questions, then the law ‘presumes’ that you are acting in self-defense. It would not be necessary to prove that you had an honest and reasonable belief that the force you used was necessary to prevent the unlawful imminent force upon you, or another. Deadly force would require imminent death, sexual assault, or great bodily harm. However, self-defense by non-deadly force would require an unlawful force upon you. What is also key in Michigan law in self-defense cases is that you have the right to defend people, not property. Every case is very fact specific.
What is your Castle?
The idea of Castle in the Castle Doctrine is your dwelling, your home, however, in Michigan, the Castle does not extend to the Moat, Bridge, or Grounds. The fact that the Missouri couples’ home has been called a mansion is irrelevant for purposes of the Castle Doctrine analysis. The additional protections of Castle Doctrine do not extend past your physical home. It does not include, for example, your yard or your driveway, regardless of whether you have a gate, or fence, or wall. It does apply to an appurtenant structure such as an attached garage. This does not mean self-defense does not apply, it only means that the Castle Doctrine and its presumptions do not apply on your behalf.
The Missouri Attorney General stated, “the state’s “Castle Doctrine” that gives Missourians “broad rights” in protecting property and lives in his move to dismiss the case.” Michigan’s application is not so broad, but very specific and very technical and fact specific.
So, if no Castle Doctrine, then Does Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Law Apply?
Probably not, because the Missouri couple used neither force or deadly force. Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Law applies only if you have an honest and reasonable belief that yourself or another are in danger of imminent death, great bodily injury or sexual assault, then you can use deadly force in Michigan to repel the attack. There are exceptions, such as when you are yourself engaged in criminal activity or not in place you’re legally allowed to be.
If I find Myself in the Pickle of this Missouri Couple, Should I make a Statement?
No. Plain and Simple. You contact a firearm lawyer. Preferably a Michigan firearm lawyer at the Barone Defense Firm. In the Missouri couple case, the husband has made at least one statement: ‘”I was a person scared for my life, protecting my wife, my home, my hearth, my livelihood,” ‘ All of this may be true, but for an argument (in Michigan at least) for Castle Doctrine would likely fall short of success considering there is no objective evidence of a breaking and entering or home invasion, and he was not inside his home or an appurtenant structure at the time. Plus, no one was hurt or killed. Michigan’s Castle Doctrine also requires the Objective Element – was there Breaking and Entering/Home Invasion, and the Subjective Element – Honest and Reasonable Belief that the Breaking and Entering/Home Invasion was happening or had occurred, or was someone trying to remove a person from inside the “castle” without the legal right to do so? The Missouri situation also falls short of the imminent requirement necessary for self-defense. And last, it concedes he took some action.
Cases involving firearms are very serious, and the consequences are severe. The case in Missouri has caught the national media but it is a reflection of the media pressure, political influence, and societal divide on the topic of firearms, all of which play a role in the representation and defense of firearm cases.
If you have a case involving allegations of firearm violations and cases of self-defense, contact the Team at the Barone Defense Firm for a consultation to discuss protecting your Rights and your Life.