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Wisconsin Self Defense Law - When is it OK to Defend Yourself?

self defense law

In 2010 Wisconsin passed a law commonly referred to as "castle law doctrine." This essentially states that, in the event an intruder has entered the home of a Wisconsin citizen, that citizen retains the privilege to utilize deadly force in defense of himself or others.

Castle Law in Wisconsin

Because the adoption of castle law doctrine is so new in Wisconsin, several unanswered questions exist with how far, exactly, the right to use deadly force extends, even in home-invasion situations.  We do not yet know if this right extends to:

  • The grounds of a person's home,
  • Other areas where the person has apparent authority and a reasonable expectation of privacy (for example, hotel rooms)
  • Or other locations

Duty to Retreat

There is no "duty to retreat" in Wisconsin when contemplating the use of force, meaning that any individual who believes that their life is in imminent danger may act with deadly force without first attempting to exit the situation.  The caveat to this is that the belief must be objectively reasonable, and that the force must not be excessive. These are questions typically left to the jury to sort out, meaning that the decision to act with deadly force will still likely lead to a defendant standing trial and raising the affirmative defense, rather than a non-prosecution on the front end. Bottom line, and speaking frankly:  It is still the best advice that firearms or any other form of deadly force be used sparingly, and that one should have a genuine and apparent belief that they are about to be killed or seriously harmed when acting in self-defense, and should take any and all reasonable steps to avoid the use of force, despite the expansion of castle law doctrine in the state.

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