Castle doctrine laws are one of the most hotly contested, but also most popular, concepts in the United States regarding self-defense.
Presently, about three-quarters of the states in the US have some form of castle doctrine law, and Louisiana is among them.
Happily, Louisiana doesn’t make any bones about it when it comes to defending yourself against a violent criminal attacker in your own home, place of business, or any other place you have a lawful right to be.
Using clear and unambiguous language, Louisiana castle doctrine laws are among the easiest to understand for everyday people.
This article will serve as an overview of these laws and we have also taken the time to include the exact text of the state statutes at the end so you can read them for yourself.
Under Louisiana state law, the use of lethal force in self-defense is justified to prevent death or great bodily injury to oneself or a third party when occupying your home, temporary dwelling, place of business, or any occupied vehicle.Under those conditions, there is no obligation under the law to retreat or to attempt retreat before resorting to lethal force.Lethal force is also justified if used to prevent the imminent or ongoing commission of some forcible felonies, particularly armed robbery, burglary, and rape.
Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Louisiana
Louisiana law is quite clear regarding the use of force in self-defense, up to and including lethal force.
Lethal force is justified if you’re forced to defend your life or someone else’s from the threat of death or great bodily injury at the hands of a violent assailant.
If you’re in your home, automobile, or place of business you have no obligation to retreat or to attempt retreat prior to resorting to lethal force so long as it is justified.
But on that note, pay attention as you read through Louisiana’s statutes. You’ll notice verbiage like “reasonable person,” “reasonable belief” and so forth.
This is what is commonly referred to as the “reasonable person standard” concerning what is or is not justifiable when using force.
In short, your actions will be judged under the law whether or not you acted “reasonably” based on your perception and the totality of the evidence available to you, along with the possibility and severity of the harm you feared at the time.
If a figurative “reasonable person” would have done the same thing, you’re justified, but if not, you might be in trouble.
No specific restrictions beyond what has been mentioned above in the overview. However, it must be pointed out that Louisiana’s laws concerning the defense of another person or coming to the aid of a third party in duress is not as clear and unambiguous as the rest of the laws throughout the statutes.
Good citizen defenders are always strongly cautioned to think things through and assess before coming to the aid of a stranger that is in trouble because these things have a way of spiraling out of control, but the laws in Louisiana particularly might make that option pretty sticky. Think twice!
Aside from a few thin sections regarding using force in defense on behalf of a third party, Louisiana’s castle doctrine laws are clear, strong, and roundly good.
The use of lethal force in defense is justified for citizens that are forced to protect themselves and their loved ones in their own homes, places of business, or in an occupied vehicle.
Relevant Louisiana Castle Doctrine Statutes
Louisiana Revised Statutes Tit. 14, § 20. Justifiable homicide
A. A homicide is justifiable:
(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.
(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.
(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40) , while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle.
(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40) when the conflict began, against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(b) The provisions of this Paragraph shall not apply when the person committing the homicide is engaged, at the time of the homicide, in the acquisition of, the distribution of, or possession of, with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance in violation of the provisions of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
B. For the purposes of this Section, there shall be a presumption that a person lawfully inside a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle held a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent unlawful entry thereto, or to compel an unlawful intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle when the conflict began, if both of the following occur:
(1) The person against whom deadly force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(2) The person who used deadly force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred.
C. A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.
D. No finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used deadly force had a reasonable belief that deadly force was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a violent or forcible felony involving life or great bodily harm or to prevent the unlawful entry.