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Michigan Castle Doctrine
Here in the state of Michigan, you won’t find the term “Castle Doctrine” in the Self-Defense Act or any other statute. Instead, the concept relates to the old expression that “a man’s home is his castle.” The concept of an enhanced right to use force to protect your home has existed since the times of old, eventually being passed down by case law. While there was no duty to retreat within the home if you were attacked, the duty to retreat could still be required in certain situations.
However, in 2006, the Castle Doctrine concept was adapted into a statute to provide an increased right of self-defense. The enhancement was added to the Self-Defense Act, commonly known as Stand Your Ground, which is described here (provide link to MI Stand Your Ground). Stand Your Ground means that you have no legal duty to retreat prior to the use of force for self-defense or defense of others.
Under that act, you must “honestly” and “reasonably” believe that “imminent” danger of unlawful use of force exists before exercising your right to self-defense or defense of others. Based upon the statutory Castle Doctrine, “honestly,” “reasonably,” and “imminently” are presumed, if the defense occurs in certain locations. The specific locations where Castle Doctrine applies are: a dwelling, a business, or an occupied vehicle.
Please note, the presumption only applies if the attacker is engaged in a breaking and entering or home invasion of a dwelling or business. It also applies to any of the above premises, if someone is being unlawfully removed against their will, i.e., a kidnapping. However, this requires that you “honestly” and “reasonably” believe that one of those actions is occurring. Importantly, both things must be true: you must believe that the action is happening, and the action must be happening. If both are true, the jury instruction requires that the jury must presume an honest and reasonable belief of imminent death/great bodily harm/sexual assault. This is a huge presumption, as it pretty much justifies any use of force in those locations.
Unfortunately, it is also important to understand that whether use of force was justified will be decided other people, i.e., police, prosecutors, judges, or jury. Michigan case law has shown that interpretation of facts that were outside of the knowledge of the person claiming the Castle Doctrine protections, can prevent the use of that claim at trial. This makes it difficult to predict whether the use of force under Castle Doctrine will be justified later. Therefore, if you intend on using force to defend your home, you should fully understand the law and prepare accordingly.
We do advise everyone to continue to educate and train. Failure to prepare for the legal use of self-defense is a failure you cannot afford. Talk to your instructors about continuing education programs, simulators, and preparing yourself in case it becomes necessary for you to act. If you have already been forced to use self-defense, you should seek an attorney as soon as possible to assist you in defending your actions.
 MCL 780.972.
 MCL 780.951.
 MCL 780.951(3)(c) "Dwelling" means a structure or shelter that is used permanently or temporarily as a place of abode, including an appurtenant structure attached to that structure or shelter.
 MCL 780.951(3)(b) "Business premises" means a building or other structure used for the transaction of business, including an appurtenant structure attached to that building or other structure.
 MCL 780.951(1)(a).
 MCL 780.951(1)(b).
 M Crim JI 7.16a.
 People v. Wafer, 907 N.W.2d 584 (MI Sup. Ct. 2018).