Keffer Hirschauer Indiana Law Firm Logo
Search
Close this search box.
Keffer Hirschauer Indiana Law Firm Logo
put short code to menu here

Share this Article

Share this Article >

The Castle Doctrine in Indiana

The Castle Doctrine in Indiana, a legal principle with deep historical roots, is designed to offer protection to individuals defending themselves in their own homes. This doctrine is based on the age-old belief that a person’s home is their castle, and therefore, they have the right to defend it. It also offers legal immunity in certain situations where force is used against intruders. 

Like many other states, Indiana used the Castle Doctrine when crafting the state’s stand your ground law. Under this law, Hoosiers are justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, against any person if they believe that the force in necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry of or attack on their home, land, or occupied motor vehicle, without the duty to retreat. In other words, if someone is on your property in Indiana, and they pose a reasonable criminal threat, reasonable force may be used to get them off the property or eliminate the threat.  

While the description above may sound a bit off to some, it’s important to understand that Indiana’s laws on this matter contain some nuance, and there are situations where force may be found to be unreasonable or unjustified. Therefore, it’s vital that everyone take a look at the laws inspired by the Castle Doctrine in Indiana and understand how they’re to be applied when protecting one’s property.  

If you do have any questions about the stand your ground law in Indiana or are facing charges related to an event involving self-protection, the Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to assist you. To speak with a member of our team today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.  

Overview of the Castle Doctrine 

The Castle Doctrine is a legal principle relating to the topic of home defense. Under this principle, the use of force may be used against any person(s) unlawfully in the home or on the property, provided that the homeowner reasonably believes that the intruder intends to cause damage or harm. When compared to other related principles, the Castle Doctrine is notable in the fact that it eliminates the duty to retreat before using force, under the belief that a person should not be forced to leave their home to avoid confrontation. 

It’s important to understand that the specifics of how the Castle Doctrine is applied vary state by state, including the extent of the legal protections it provides and the circumstances under which it applies. Given this, individuals should reference the relevant statutes governing their jurisdiction to ensure that any actions they take are well within the legal boundaries of their state’s law.  

Does Indiana Have a Castle Doctrine Law? 

Yes, Indiana is among the states in the U.S. that have integrated the Castle Doctrine into their legal system. The state’s interpretation of this doctrine is codified in the Indiana Code 35-41-3-2, which clearly states that it is “the policy of this state to recognize the unique character of a citizen’s home and to ensure that a citizen feels secure in his or her own home against unlawful intrusion by another individual or a public servant.” As evidenced by this statement, Indiana takes a strong stance on the rights of individuals to protect themselves and their property, and thus provides its citizens with reasonable immunity for the justified use of force when acting in self-defense. 

Key Aspects of Indiana’s Castle Doctrine Law 

  • Legal Protection in Residences and Vehicles 
    • Indiana’s law extends the traditional concept of a ‘castle’ to include not just one’s home/property but also occupied vehicles. This expansion recognizes the importance of safety and the right to self-defense in various commonly occupied spaces. 
    • The inclusion of vehicles means that individuals are not required to retreat when threatened in these locations. This provision reflects an understanding of the immediacy and unpredictability of threats outside the home. 
  • Use of Reasonable Force 
    • Under Indiana law, ‘reasonable force’ includes deadly force when it is believed necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or a forcible felony, such as robbery or murder. 
    • This aspect of the doctrine requires a subjective belief in the necessity of force but also imposes an objective standard—what a reasonable person would believe in similar circumstances. This duality ensures balance between personal perceptions of threat and general societal standards. 
    • The term ‘forcible felony,’ as defined in Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-138, means a felony that involves the use or threat of force against a human being, or in which there is imminent danger of bodily injury to a human being.  
  • No Duty to Retreat 
    • Indiana’s doctrine significantly emphasizes the ‘no duty to retreat’ principle. This principle applies even if safe retreat is possible, acknowledging the right of individuals to defend their ground in places they legally occupy. 
    • The removal of the retreat requirement represents a strong stance on personal safety and the right to self-defense, reflecting Indiana’s commitment to individual rights and liberties. 
  • Civil Immunity 
    • Unlike a handful of states with Castle Doctrine laws, Indiana provides those who use justified force to protect person or property with civil immunity. 
    • As outlined in Indiana Code 34-30-31, the justified use of force under the Castle Doctrine in Indiana provides complete immunity against any claim or action initiated by a person who alleges to have been injured or damaged by any such use of force; and whose conduct justified the use of force.  

Indiana Castle Doctrine and Police 

The laws crafted using the Castle Doctrine in Indiana provide that a person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant in certain situations. As outlined in Indiana Code 35-41-3-2(j), reasonable force against a public servant is permitted if the person reasonable believes that force is necessary to:  

  • protect the person or a third person from what they reasonably believe is the imminent use of unlawful force 
  • prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful entry of or attack on the person’s dwelling, curtilage, or occupied motor vehicle 
  • prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful trespass on or criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession or the possession of the person’s immediate family 

For the purposes of this law, a public servant can be understood to be a “federal enforcement officer,” as defined in Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-129 or “law enforcement officer” as defined in Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-185.  

While this law may be controversial to some, it’s important to understand that Indiana’s Castle Doctrine does explicitly state a handful of situations where force may NOT be used against a public servant. For instance, a person is not justified in using deadly force against a public servant whom the person knows or reasonably should know is a public servant unless: (1) the person reasonably believes that the public servant is acting unlawfully or is not engaged in the execution of their official duties; and (2) the force is reasonably necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person or a third person. Furthermore, reasonable force cannot be used against a public servant in the following situations:  

  • The person is committing or escaping after the commission of a crime 
  • The person provokes action by the public servant with intent to cause bodily injury to the public servant 
  • The person has entered into combat with the public servant or is the initial aggressor, unless the person withdraws from the encounter and communicates to the public servant the intent to do so, and the public servant nevertheless continues or threatens to continue unlawful action 
  • The person reasonably believes that the public servant is acting lawfully or engaged in the lawful execution of the public servant’s official duties. 

Reasonable Force and Reasonable Belief 

While Indiana’s stand-your-ground law, modeled off the Castle Doctrine, is quite clear on the fact that Hoosiers may exercise the justified use of force when acting in self-defense; it’s critical to also know the limits and extent of this law. To do so, one must have a clear understanding of what constitutes reasonable force and reasonable belief of an imminent threat. 

Reasonable Force 

The concept of “reasonable force” hinges on the principle that the level of force exerted in self-defense should be commensurate with the threat faced. In legal proceedings, the assessment of what constitutes reasonable force involves the “reasonable person standard.” This standard contemplates whether a person in a similar situation would have acted similarly. 

Example 1 of Reasonable Force: Person A pushes Person B to the ground and is preparing to strike them. To prevent being struck, Person B deploys pepper spray into the face of Person A. In this scenario, Person B’s use of force may be deemed reasonable by a court of law.  

Example 2 of Reasonable Force: Person A pushes Person B to the ground and is preparing to strike them. To prevent being struck, Person B draws a concealed weapon and fires at Person A multiple times. In this scenario, the court may question the necessity of such extreme force and not accept Person A’s claim of reasonable force.  

Reasonable Belief 

When it comes to situations involving the Castle Doctrine in Indiana, the term ‘reasonable belief’ refers to a genuine conviction that an imminent (immediate and about to occur) and unlawful threat exists. The reasonableness of this belief is again judged by the reasonable person standard, considering the specifics of the encounter. 

Example 1 of Reasonable Belief: It’s 2am on Thursday night, and Person A is at home, sitting on their couch and watching television. They hear a noise outside the home, so they get up and walk to the window. They see a man wearing all black clothing and a black face mask walking around the perimeter of the home. If Person A used justifiable force against this person on their property, a court may accept Person A’s claim that they reasonably believe the person presented an imminent and unlawful threat.  

Example 2 of Reasonable Belief: It’s 2am on Thursday night and Person A is at home watching television when suddenly, through the windows, they see a car pull into their driveway. Alarmed, they grab a firearm from a nearby drawer and proceed to the front of the house. By the time Person A opens the door, the car has already begun to exit the driveway. Nonetheless, Person A proceeds to open fire on the vehicle. In this scenario, the court may find issue with Person A’s claim that they reasonably believed an imminent and unlawful threat existed; especially since the car was already exiting the property by the time Person A took action. 

Contact an Indiana Defense Attorney Today 

Under the Indiana laws inspired by the Castle Doctrine, Hoosiers have broad rights to defend themselves and their property. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to wrongful prosecution. If you’ve been charged with a violent crime in Indiana but feel that you acted within your rights given Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law, you’ll want to retain an experienced Indiana  defense attorney right away. There are a handful of defenses available to you under Indiana law, and if applicable, can be used to your advantage.  

As former prosecutors, the lead attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP know exactly what to look for in cases of self-defense. We can plan accordingly to combat the prosecutor’s tactics and challenge the evidence gathered against you. With our guidance, you’ll have a stronger chance of gaining immunity and having the charges placed against you dropped altogether.  

To begin working on your Castle Doctrine defense, contact our criminal defense team today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

Summary
Understanding the Castle Doctrine in Indiana
Article Name
Understanding the Castle Doctrine in Indiana
Description
This article provides an overview of the Castle Doctrine in Indiana, and touches on various elements of the state's Stand Your Ground statute.
Publisher Name
Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Topic Categories

More Topics