SPECIAL REPORT: Guard Your Castle or Flee?

By: Jason Colthorp Email
By: Jason Colthorp Email
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Stand Your Ground laws, Guarding Your Castle laws and self-defense laws have all come into question because of Florida's Trayvon Martin case. Because of that we want to educate you about Michigan's laws in this area.

We are not encouraging people to buy guns, or to not buy guns--- and certainly not to shoot people. We just want you to better understand the law, because it's not like this hasn't happened in the Lansing area.

Last January, a man was shot dead after forcing his way into a home in the Georgetown neighborhood. And earlier this year a homeowner shot at burglar as he was running to get out. Those two cases are the basis for tonight's first scenario.

It's the middle of the night, you hear a sound-- different than normal. Your heart starts racing. You can't breathe.

You can't move.

You turn and grab the gun from your nightstand.

As you creep down the stairs, your mind races. Who could this be? Is it a burglar? Does he have a weapon? Are the kids OK?

Should you confront him or are you legally allowed to shoot an unsuspecting intruder in the back? What if you order them to stay where they are and they take off? Is it legal to shoot if you're seemingly no longer in danger? And what if you do shoot but not until they're outside your home? Does this situation make a difference under the law?

For the answer we went to law school-- Cooley Law-- and Professor Patrick Corbett.

"The shooter has to honestly and reasonably believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent eminent deadly harm or great bodily harm," Corbett said.

He pointed to the 2006 Michigan Self Defense Act which is pretty clear when it comes to someone who has committed a felony by breaking into a home.

"Under Michigan's new law you have no duty to retreat in any place you have a legal right to be."

"If you're the homeowner and you just happen to be there and you've got somebody breaking into your house," he continued. "You've got an honest belief that the person might cause harm to you."

"Would it be reasonable? That would depend on a jury," he cautioned. "If you didn't use excessive force-- you just shot him once-- then it would be proportional."

Which sounds like all the requirements are present to use deadly force if someone enters your house.

But what if you confronted the burglar, struggled and it spilled outside your house as they tried to get away?

"First of all, if it's a struggle it seems like the same thing still holds," said Corbett. "You're still facing this belief of great bodily harm because you're struggling. So it does appear that our law would allow that."

While the law seems favorable to the old "shoot first ask questions later" saying, Professor Corbett warns, this is not a no-brainer.

"What you'd have to figure out is does the judge think there's enough to suggest that self defense is appropriate here and is it such that the prosecutor can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn't have this defense of self defense?" Corbett said. "It still has to be proven in court and that's a gray area so people shouldn't assume it's an automatic thing."

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Stacy Location: Jackson on May 3, 2012 at 09:40 PM
    I say ban all guns. Anybody caught with a gun faces automatic 10 years in prison. This should dramatically reduce crime in a matter of a few years.
  • by anonymous Location: lansing on May 2, 2012 at 02:46 PM
    if you in my house without permission you are fair game to my gun
  • by april Location: Camden, mi on May 1, 2012 at 04:13 PM
    I was just robbed, but no one was home. So they got away with it. I believe we should be able to protect ourselves and our property by any means.
  • by Greg Location: Charlotte on May 1, 2012 at 03:38 PM
    Shoot to kill. Dead men tell no tails. I do NOT want my tax dollars going to feed them. After a few of these, crime will go down.
    • reply
      by RT on May 2, 2012 at 08:21 AM in reply to Greg
      Greg, you're a man after my own heart!! I've been advocating that approach for a long time on this site. Well said!!
  • by Ken Location: st. johns on May 1, 2012 at 02:01 PM
    People of the world can and will do as they please under the law, but if your a Christian, you live by a higher standard. If you love your enemies are you really going to shoot them? Luk 6:27 But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, Luk 6:28 bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.
    • reply
      by Spring on May 2, 2012 at 06:41 AM in reply to Ken
      Being a good Christian is paramount yes, but self preservation is plain common sense. Maybe you would lay down and die senselessly in your own home (and not defend your family) but not I.
    • reply
      by RT on May 2, 2012 at 08:12 AM in reply to Ken
      Quote your scripture to that man in New York who had his entire family raped and murdered and the house set afire by two maniacs that beat him with a baseball bat and left him for dead. The Bible also teaches that we have a right to defend ourselves.
  • by Intelhonest Location: Plymouth on May 1, 2012 at 01:18 PM
    Either the attorney interviewed does not know the law concerning the Michigan Self Defense Act or the piece edited out a very vital part of the Michigan Self Defense Act of 2006. ENROLLED SENATE BILL No. 1046 created the following: AN ACT to create a rebuttable presumption regarding the use of self-defense or the defense of others. Sec. 1. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), it is a rebuttable presumption in a civil or criminal case that an individual who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force under section 2 of the self-defense act has an honest and reasonable belief that imminent death of, sexual assault of, or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another individual will occur if both of the following apply: (a) The individual against whom deadly force or force other than deadly force is used is in the process of breaking and entering a dwelling or business premises or committing home invasion or has broken and entered a dwelling or business premises or committed home invasion and is still present in the dwelling or business premises, or is unlawfully attempting to remove another individual from a dwelling, business premises, or occupied vehicle against his or her will. This is a completely separate law from what most refer to as the “Castle Law”. The Castle Law defines what constitutes your “dwelling” and surrounding property. The “Castle” part of the self defense act is covered by the following ENROLLED HOUSE BILL No. 5142 Sec. 21c. (1) In cases in which section 2 of the self-defense act does not apply, the common law of this state applies except that the duty to retreat before using deadly force is not required if an individual is in his or her own dwelling or within the curtilage of that dwelling.
  • by BHirsh Location: Florida on May 1, 2012 at 12:29 PM
    Who's your editor? It's "imminent", not "eminent". Sheesh.
  • by Greg Location: Lansing on May 1, 2012 at 10:09 AM
    I guarantee you, that if you broke into the WHITE HOUSE, the security would use deadly force to protect it. Regardless if the Obama's are home.
  • by LMP on May 1, 2012 at 09:36 AM
    We have the right to defend our property, but NOT the right to track someone like a dog. Once the intruder has left the property, with or without your property, you are not in personal danger any longer. Self defense laws are just that, self defense laws. Not revenge laws.
  • by David Location: Charlotte on May 1, 2012 at 09:05 AM
    I dont care if it was legal or not, if some punk wanted to come and take a chance on getting his head blowed off then try it. Because you think that im not going to defend my wife and kids you got another thing coming.
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