Ask The Advocate: Castle Doctrine
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III and Assistant District Attorney Monisa Thompson said three state statutes are pertinent to a discussion of Louisiana’s so-called “castle doctrine”: La. R.S. 14:19, which defines the use of force or violence in defense; La. R.S. 14:20, which is the state’s justifiable homicide statute; and La. R.S. 14:21, which is one of the state’s self-defense statutes.
La. R.S. 14:19 states, among other things, that the “use of force or violence upon the person of another is justifiable when committed for the purpose of preventing a forcible offense against the person or a forcible offense or trespass against property in a person’s lawful possession, provided that the force or violence used must be reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent such offense.”
The statute says a person “who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using force or violence … and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”
La. R.S. 14:20 states, among other things, that a homicide is justifiable when “committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.”
The statute says a homicide is justifiable when “committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle … against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle.”
La. R.S. 14:21 states that the aggressor cannot claim self-defense “unless he withdraws from the conflict in good faith and in such a manner that his adversary knows or should know that he desires to withdraw and discontinue the conflict.”
Moore and Thompson said self-defense is justification for a killing only if the person committing the homicide reasonably believes he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and the deadly force is necessary to save his life. Each case hinges on its own unique set of facts.