RIPLEY COUNTY, MO (KAIT) – The Ripley County Prosecutor's Office told Region 8 News Monday that changes in the state's deadly force law have provided more protections for homeowners and residents who fall victim to burglary and other criminal action.
According to Prosecutor Christopher Miller, homeowners or residents who use deadly force to protect their family or property from a person who unlawfully enters their home cannot face civil lawsuits from the criminal nor their family.
"If they're going to come in and do anything, steal your crockery, you can use deadly force and that was a significant change. Prior to that time, the use of deadly force just to protect property was not authorized," said Miller.
Miller said the state of Missouri adopted new legislation in 2007, strengthening the protection for residents. According to Miller, the legislature recently passed an amendment to include vehicles as part of a person's "castle."
"In areas that didn't have that, a lot of legislatures were propositioned to adopt this castle doctrine that would make more protections for persons to use self defense in their home," said Miller.
Miller, who has served as Ripley County Prosecutor for 16 of the last 34 years, said the law includes the following phrase.
"A person may not use deadly force upon another person under the circumstances specified in subsection 2 of this section unless: 1. He or she reasonable believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, or herself or her unborn child, or another against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony," according to Missouri state law. "Such force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle lawfully occupied by such person."
"You don't have to worry about whether the person coming in is a threat to your life or serious injury," said Miller.
Miller said the law, as it's currently written, has saved hundreds of lives over the last three years. He said smart criminals could have used the law to commit their crimes.
"It could have opened up major loopholes that would have allowed murderers to use the law to commit murder," said Miller.
It also protects from someone allowing a person to enter a residence if two people have a disagreement. If a person is invited into the home, the resident has no right to cause bodily harm.
"Don't allow someone to invite the neighbor who you think might be having an affair with your wife and use that as an excuse to dry gulch him in your living room and say you can't touch me," said Miller. "It's clear that in our homes, in our castles, we want to be safe and secure. If we have to use our own self help use of deadly force rather than waiting for law enforcement officers to arrive, we're not going to be drug through the court system for doing that against a bad guy who has decided to violate our sanctum."
"If you were in your home, they had a couple other qualifiers. They said you could also use that deadly force to protect against anybody who is committing a number of serious forcible felonies like rape or kidnapping," said Miller. "In Missouri, you won't find situations where burglars can get their leg broken because they trip over something in your living room while they're burglarizing your house and then come back after their out of prison and sue you."