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HomeBlogCastle Doctrine: When to Defend

The investigation into the shooting on rapper DaBaby’s property in Troutman has concluded and no charges are being filed for the shooting. A man should be able to defend his property, right? Unfortunately, the circumstances of the shooting on DaBaby’s property may not meet the standards for there to be no charges. Let’s delve into North Carolina’s castle doctrine so that if you ever encounter a similar situation you know what is defensible.

When it comes to self-defense on one’s own property, one is allowed to defend his home based on the “castle doctrine.” The castle doctrine defines a “castle” as one’s home, vehicle, or workplace; if you know or suspect someone of breaking in illegally or coming into your castle with intent to cause you or another within your household severe bodily harm, sexual assault, or death then you may legally defend yourself with deadly force. Here’s where it gets tricky: in North Carolina the castle doctrine includes curtilage, which is defined as the immediate land and buildings around a home where daily activities take place, like where pets or children play inside a fence or a frequently used shed on the property.

According to legaldictionary.net, the definition of curtilage is the immediate land and buildings surrounding a home, including land between the home and the fence should a fence exist, but North Carolina has never adopted this as a bright-line rule or definition. Therefore each instance must be analyzed individually because what can be defined as curtilage is still a grey area.

On Wednesday, April 13, 2022, a 26-year-old man allegedly climbed the ten-foot tall wall surrounding DaBaby’s property in Troutman. He was shot in the leg on the property’s football field; the police have kept private the name of the trespasser and the name of the shooter. After shooting the trespasser, the shooter called the cops to inform them that a trespasser had been shot on the property and the wounded trespasser was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The trespasser was on DaBaby’s property, but he was in a football field that was currently vacant. Let’s assume that castle doctrine is not at play here because this interaction took place a long way from the house (not within the curtilage of the home). When you are outside your home, you can legally use less than lethal force to remove someone from the premises unless you believe that you or someone you are defending are about to experience severe bodily harm, sexual assault, or death.

We know that there are guard towers along the walls of DaBaby’s property, and we know that the trespasser was shot in the leg before law enforcement was called. If this incident were determined to have taken place within the curtilage of the home then the shooter was in his right to shoot, although if the shooter feared for his life then he should have shot with deadly force—not to maim. The fact that the shooter did not use deadly force indicates that he was not in fear for his life, which means that he could have simply called law enforcement or, assuming a bodyguard was present, escorted the trespasser off the property. None of the reports state whether or not the trespasser was armed, and while that is something to consider, the real question for the judge would be determining whether or not the trespasser had entered the curtilage of the home. On one hand, jumping a fence does seem to indicate that the trespasser had entered the curtilage based on the legal definition, but because it is a grey area and most often the curtilage is immediately adjacent to the home, like a front porch or a fenced in back yard, it is still hard to determine.

You might be thinking that the shooter had every right to shoot the trespasser after he jumped the fence, but let’s compare this situation with the situation the McCloskeys found themselves in during a BLM march back in 2020. According to Mark and Patricia McCloskey, they were having dinner when they heard a commotion and looked outside to see protestors breaking down the gate into their private street. There were clearly marked signs stating that it was a private street and the couple went outside to inform the group that they were trespassing and ask them to vacate the area. It was then that several people marching in the riot began threatening them and yelling obscenities. When speaking of the incident, McCloskey said, “We were told that we would be killed, our home burned, and our dog killed. We were all alone facing an angry mob.”

In this instance the McCloskeys armed themselves and stood their ground on their property. If we assume that breaking through a gate, which is comparable to the trespasser hopping a fence on DaBaby’s property, falls under the legal definition of curtilage, then they were within their right to shoot the trespassers. There is video footage of part of this incident and none of the rioters are shown on camera to set foot on the steps leading to the home or the lawn immediately adjacent to the home, which is the more common definition of curtilage. If it were right for someone to shoot a lone man who hopped a fence and was walking through an empty football field, then by that same logic it would be right to shoot at multiple trespassers who were yelling threats at you. However, no harm was being committed to the occupants in either instance and unless a reasonable person would feel that his life were in danger then lethal force is not defensible. It should be noted that it is not allowed to use lethal force to defend one’s property, though there is a difference between breaking a gate and firing shots into a home, for example.

When discussing curtilage and castle doctrine, one might ask about defense against attacks on people within the home from afar. If, for example, you are inside your home with your family and someone is shooting into the home, or throwing incendiaries, it is our opinion that this does fall under the castle doctrine. If you can pinpoint who is attacking you and your home, defending against the perpetrator should be legally defensible because a reasonable person would acknowledge the danger to life and limb. If someone is shooting into your home and you cannot see them, defending by shooting back through the walls is not legally defensible given that you could hit an innocent bystander if you live in a neighborhood. It may be different if you live on private acreage and find your home under fire from without, but we still wouldn’t recommend it.

If you have a firearm to defend your home, make sure that you do everything in your power to avoid using deadly force, UNLESS a perpetrator has entered your home or a piece of property that can be clearly defined as curtilage, like a front porch. If you feel that your life or the lives of your family members are in danger, that is when it is acceptable to defend yourself with lethal force. Remember that you can remove someone from the property without using lethal force if you do not feel that you are in immediate danger.

We hope that you found this blog post informative and we sincerely hope that you never find yourself in need of this information in your personal lives. Stay informed and stay safe.

Copyright © 2022 C.W. Lachey Law, PLLC, All rights reserved.

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