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Glossary of Commonly Used Legal Terms

Concealed Weapon Carry Permits

Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW)
Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP)
Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL)
Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL)
License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF)
Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW)
and similar, with at least one exception, Tennessee, which issues a "Handgun Carry Permit," since state law does not require a person with a permit to carry the handgun concealed.

  1. Defense of oneself when physically attacked: took a course in self-defense.
  2. Defense of what belongs to oneself, as one's works or reputation.
  3. Law. The right to protect oneself against violence or threatened violence with whatever force or means are reasonably necessary.

Castle Doctrine in the United States

A Castle Doctrine (also known as a Castle Law or a Defense of Habitation Law) is an American legal concept arising from English Common Law[1] that designates one's place of residence (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as one's car or place of work) as a place in which one enjoys protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. It then goes on to give a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that place (his/her "castle"), and/or any other innocent persons legally inside it, from violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to violent attack. In a legal context, therefore, use of deadly force which actually results in death may be defended as justifiable homicide under the Castle Doctrine.

Castle Doctrines are legislated by state, and not all states in the US have a Castle Doctrine. The term "Make My Day Law" comes from the landmark 1985 Colorado statute that protects people from any criminal charge or civil suit if they use force – including deadly force – against an invader of the home.[2] The law's nickname is a reference to the famous line uttered by Clint Eastwood's character Harry Callahan in the 1983 film Sudden Impact, "Go ahead, make my day."

This legal doctrine concerning the rights of homeowners to bear arms for self-defense, was recently argued in the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller which addressed its relation to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

State-by-state positions

For the states with a Castle Doctrine, an external link is provided to the text of the specific statute, if available. If a direct link is unavailable, for example if the destination website uses Java, the statute name and/or number is listed.

This list was last verified to be current on June 21, 2008.

Stand Your Ground Laws

(click on map for a larger picture)

States with a Stand-your-ground Law

No duty to retreat anywhere.

States with a Castle Law

No duty to retreat if in the home.

  • Alaska
  • California (California Penal Code § 198.5 sets forth that unlawful, forcible entry into one's residence by someone not a member of the household creates the presumption that the resident held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury should he or she use deadly force against the intruder. This would make the homicide justifiable under CPC § 197[1]. CALCRIM 506 gives the instruction, "A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger ... has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating." However, it also states that "[People v. Ceballos] specifically held that burglaries which 'do not reasonably create a fear of great bodily harm' are not sufficient 'cause for exaction of human life.'”)
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii (Retreat required outside the home if it can be done in "complete safety.")
  • Kansas (§ 21-3212. Use of force in defense of dwelling; no duty to retreat. (a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that it appears to such person and such person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other's unlawful entry into or attack upon such person's dwelling or occupied vehicle.)
  • Maine (Deadly force justified to terminate criminal trespass AND another crime within home, or to stop unlawful and imminent use of deadly force, or to effect a citizen's arrest against deadly force; duty to retreat not specifically removed)[26]
  • Maryland See Maryland self-defense (Case-law, not statute, incorporates the commonlaw castle-doctrine into Maryland self-defense law. Invitees or guests may have duty to retreat based on mixed case law.)
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan (more recent law—Act 309 of 2006—does not relieve duty to retreat "unless [deadly force is] necessary to prevent imminent death;" this represents no change from common law, which does not require retreat unless it can be safely done)
  • Mississippi (to use reference, select "Code of 1972" and search "retreat")
  • Missouri (Extends Castle Doctrine to one's vehicle)
  • Ohio (Extends to vehicles of self and immediate family; effective September 9, 2008.[27] Section 2901.09)
  • Oregon. (ORS 161.209-229. Use of force justifiable in a range of scenarios without a duty to retreat specified. Oregon Supreme Court affirmed in State of Oregon v. Sandoval that the law "sets out a specific set of circumstances that justify a person's use of deadly force (that the person reasonably believes that another person is using or about to use deadly force against him or her) and does not interpose any additional requirement (including a requirement that there be no means of escape).")
  • New Jersey ("Statutes" link in sidebar, see New Jersey Statutes 2C:3-4, retreat required outside home if actor knows he can avoid necessity of deadly force in complete safety, etc.)
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • West Virginia (Senate bill 145 signed March 12, 2008. WV code §55-7-22)
  • Wyoming

States with weak Castle Law

The duty to retreat is not removed, but deadly force may be used to end invasion of home without presence of immediate lethal threat.

  • Idaho (Homicide is justified if defending a home from "tumultuous" entry; duty to retreat not specifically removed)
  • Illinois (Use of deadly force is justified if defending a home from "a violent, riotous, or tumultuous" entry or "to prevent the commission of a felony"; duty to retreat not specifically removed)
  • Minnesota (Homicide justified to prevent the commission of a felony in the home)
  • Montana (Deadly force justified to prevent felony in the home)
  • New York (Deadly force justified to prevent burglary or arson of the home)
  • Pennsylvania 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 505 on the defense of self says there is no obligation to retreat from the home or workplace unless the actor was the initial aggressor or, in the latter case, set upon by a co-worker; however, "surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto" and "complying with a demand that [one] abstain from any action which [one] has no duty to take" are listed in addition to retreating as avenues which, if open to the actor but not taken, invalidate justification for the use of deadly force. Deadly force itself is not justifiable unless "the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat." 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 507 allows the use of deadly force if the actor believes there has been an unlawful entry into his or her dwelling and believes that nothing less than deadly force will end the incursion; if the person on the receiving end of the deadly force is "attempting to dispossess [the actor] of his dwelling otherwise than under a claim of right to its possession;" or if deadly force is the only thing that will prevent a felony from being committed in the dwelling. In any of those cases, the property owner must first ask the interloper to desist — unless the owner believes that doing so would be "useless," "dangerous," or would result in the property being defended coming to substantial harm before the request to desist could be effectively communicated.
  • South Dakota "Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is." SD Codified Laws 22-16-34 (2005).

States with no known Castle Law

  • Iowa (Law does not require retreat from home, but may require retreat within the home)
  • New Hampshire[28]
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • District of Columbia

Above sections provide detail findings for 37 states and the District only. Some sources list 16 states as having "Stand your ground laws",[29][30] but review of the statutes does not make it clear that all listed states have eliminated the duty to retreat outside the home.


  1. ^ "Assembly, No. 159, State of New Jersey, 213th Legislature, The “New Jersey Self Defense Law”". May 6, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-03-19. "The “Castle Doctrine” is a long-standing American legal concept arising from English Common Law that provides that one's abode is a special area in which one enjoys certain protections and immunities, that one is not obligated to retreat before defending oneself against attack, and that one may do so without fear of prosecution." 
  2. ^ Dirk Johnson. "'Make My Day': More Than a Threat". New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-27. 
  3. ^ Rhinehart, C: "Castle Doctrine and Self-Defense," Connecticut General Assembly, Office of Legislative Research
  4. ^ Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 776
  5. ^ Kopel DB: "The Self-Defense Cases," 2000
  6. ^ Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550 (1895)
  7. ^ p.19 Brown, Richard Maxwell No Duty to Retreat: Violence and Values in American History and Society Oxford University Press 1991
  8. ^ p.36 ibid
  9. ^ Ala. Code 13A-3-23(b): "A person who is justified under subsection (a) in using physical force, including deadly physical force, and who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and is in any place where he or she has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground."
  10. ^ Utah Code 76-2-405
  11. ^ 1
  12. ^ 2
  13. ^ "States allow deadly self-defense" by Richard Willing, USAToday, March 20, 2006, retrieved April 4, 2006
  14. ^ See State v. Cain, 20 W.Va. 679 (1882); State v. Laura, 93 W.Va. 250, 116 S.E. 251 (1923); State v. McMillion, 104 W.Va. 1, 138 S.E. 732 (1927); State v. Preece, 116 W.Va. 176, 179 S.E. 524 (1935); State v. Bowyer, 143 W.Va. 302, 101 S.E.2d 243 (1957); State v. Green, 157 W.Va. 1031, 206 S.E.2d 923 (1974); State v. Kirtley, 162 W.Va. 249, 252 S.E.2d 374 (1978); State v. W.J.B., 166 W.Va. 602, 276 S.E.2d 550 (1981)
  15. ^ Utah Code, title 76, chapter 2, section 407 "Deadly force in defense of persons on real property"
  16. ^ Utah Code, title 76, chapter 2, section 402 "Force in defense of person—Forcible felony defined", paragraph 3
  17. ^
  18. ^ North Carolina General Assembly. "North Carolina General Statutes §14-51.1". Retrieved on 2008-10-14. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Homicide; by other person; when justifiable. Revised Code of Washington 9A.16.050". Washington state legislature.. 1975. 
  21. ^ 137 Wn.2d 533 State of Washington v. Studd; Decided 1999/04/01.
  22. ^ 150 Wn.2d 489 State of Washington v. Reynaldo Redmond; Decided 2003/12/06.
  23. ^ Blackstone's Commentaries - Book the Fourth - Chapter the Sixteenth : Of Offenses Against the Habitations of Individuals
  24. ^ "Tully" is a common abbreviation for Marcus Tullius Cicero.
  25. ^ What more sacred, what more strongly guarded by every holy feeling, than a man's own home?
  26. ^ Physical force justification
  27. ^ "Senate Bills - Status Report of Legislation, SB 184". Retrieved on 2008-08-09. 
  28. ^ Connecticut OLR, reporting that such a law was vetoed in New Hampshire.
  29. ^ "Sixteen states adopt 'Stand your Ground' laws authorizing use of deadly force." Crime Control Digest, August 11, 2006. Viewed at
  30. ^ NRA-ILA: Self-defense/Castle Doctrine: This Train Keeps a-Rollin'. 7/28/06
  31. ^ Stoil, Rebecca Anna (24 June 2008). "New law allows shooting at burglars". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on 15 July 2009. 


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