What are Missouri’s self-defense laws?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Claims of self-defense seem to so often be the response to accusations of violent crime in Missouri that you may immediately meet them with skepticism. Yet at the same time, you also may recognize that there are situations where you may feel compelled to act to defend yourself and/or your loved one in the face of a potential threat.

If and when you do act (or more correctly, react) to such a scenario, your ability to defend your actions depends largely on your knowledge of the state’s self-defense laws. That understanding requires you to understand the difference between two common legal principles: “Stand Your Ground” laws and “the Castle Doctrine.”

Understanding the Castle Doctrine

“Stand Your Ground” laws stipulate that you do not have a duty to retreat from any situation in which you feel threatened. Typically this privilege extends to any situation (regardless of the location). “The Castle Doctrine,” on the other hand, limits the scenarios that justify defensive force to intrusions on to your property.

Per Missouri state law, the state subscribes to the latter philosophy. Indeed, Section 563.031 of the state’s Revised Statutes say that you can defend yourself and others when another attempts to unlawfully enter any of the following locations:

  • Your home
  • Your leased property
  • Any location where you have a legal entitlement to be

Justified deadly force?

If the law justifies your defensive action, the question then becomes to what extent can you act? State law permits you to use deadly force if you believe it to be absolutely necessary to avoid you or a loved one suffering death or serious injury. If you do feel compelled to use deadly force, the burden lies on the state to disprove that the circumstances of the situation did not warrant such action.