Use of Force in Defense of Habitation in Georgia
One defense that Georgia, among other states, has is the use of force when in defense of habitation. Use of force to protect one's home is sometimes referred to as Castle Doctrine. Essentially, it is a self-defense theory that gives a homeowner the right to protect their home with the use of deadly force. Outside of the home, citizens have the duty to retreat to avoid violence if they can reasonably do so. However, if the individual is assaulted within their own home, castle doctrine or defense of habitation negates that duty. If you or a loved one used force in defense of your home and are now being charged with a crime, contact our offices today. Our offices have over 50 combined years of criminal law experience and know how to present your case best. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys understands that every case is different and we will take the time to thoroughly grasp your specific case.
Georgia Law O.C.G.A. §16-3-23 Outlines when the Defense of Habitation Applies
A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when they reasonably believe that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other's unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation. However, such person is justified in the use of force, which is intended to or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:
- The entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner and he or she reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assault or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence;
- That force is used against another person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using such force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred; or
- The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.
Georgia law requires that there be both forcible attack and invasion for the defense of habitation to apply. Where there is no evidence that the suspect tried to force entry into defendant's home and instead, they stood outside and called for the homeowner to come out, use of force in defense of habitation was not authorized by the evidence. Harvard v. State, 162 Ga. App. 218, (1982). Therefore, there must be evidence that the suspect attempted to enter or attack the defendant's habitation.
One important element is that the person reasonably believes that an entry is being attempted and that such force was necessary to prevent the assault of violence. A court found that the use of force was not justified when a person entered into another's house with no weapon and the entry was not violent yet the homeowner stabbed the victim and they died as a result. The Court found that the use of deadly force was not necessary for the homeowner's protection. Muckle v. State, 307 Ga. App. 634, (2011).
If it is proven that the defendant acted reasonably and the force was justified, then the defendant will be acquitted of the charges.
What Constitutes a Habitation?
O.C.G.A. §16-3-24.1 defines habitation as any dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business. The Court has found that houses, apartments, duplexes, and trailers all count as long as long as they are considered the home of the defendant.
With regard to rented apartments, if a right of reentry is not included in the rental agreement, then the landlord does not have the right to force their way onto the rented premises. Goerndt v. State, 144 Ga. App. 93, (1977).
The legal system can be complicated and overwhelming. Trying to prove that your use of force was justified to defend your home can be difficult. Having a Georgia Attorney is for more than just court; it is about having someone who understands your side of the story and is willing to fight for you. The Law Office of Richard Lawson and his team of Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers will assist you every step of the way and answer any questions you may wait. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation. Don't wait because your future is at stake.