Whether you own or rent your home or apartment, you have likely wondered what you would do if someone broke in. Would you run? Would you stay and fight? What if you could not leave? How can you legally defend yourself in Oregon?
What about the castle doctrine?
The phrase “castle doctrine” is used to describe laws that allow for the use of force (which could include deadly force) to protect your home. The idea stems from the idea that your home is your castle, and you should have the right to defend it from invaders. Each state has its version and limitations on using force in self-defense.
To be clear, Oregon does not recognize the castle doctrine by name, but it does recognize it by statute in section 161.219. It allows for the use of deadly force in self-defense, but only under specified circumstances, and the state’s supreme court has similarly weighed in and recognized it as well.
When is deadly force justified?
Deadly force can be justified if force is used against a person who is committing (or even attempting to commit) a felony that involves physical force against a person. It is also justified if the other person broke into your home (burglary of a dwelling), and when the other person is using or about to use unlawful deadly force themselves against you or another person.
Again, to clarify whether you can protect your castle, the Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that you do not have a duty to retreat from your home when confronted by a burglar. This means that if someone breaks into your home, and you are faced with a violent confrontation, you are likely lawfully able to use deadly force.
Reasonable and proportional
If there is a reasonable belief of imminent harm, force can be justified. However, the force must still be reasonable and proportional to the threat the person presents. And, remember, you likely will have to prove these facts later in court.
One example in which force would not be justified is when someone is just knocking on your door. If someone breaks in, takes your stuff and runs off, you cannot chase them down and shoot them. Why? Because these people did not present a threat of imminent harm.