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Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Without Castle Doctrine, could I protect myself? 2 UPDATES

Legislation, WISCONSIN

Updates below. Please READ the post before commenting. Castle Doctrine gives the property owner immunity against an intruder. That means someone who is inside.

If you live in Wisconsin, do you have the right to defend yourself from an intruder in your home, without fear of incurring thousands of dollars for legal fees in court later?

Suppose it is near midnight, and you are home working at your computer. It is quiet in the house but then you hear a noise coming from your garage. You decide to investigate. But when you open your garage access door, you discover 2 men standing inside. One is holding a crowbar.

Can you, as the homeowner, defend yourself and be within the law?

Well, in Wisconsin, that depends. Were they intent on causing you harm? Were you feeling threatened?

What if they were escaped convicts?

That may sound a bit far fetched, but that might have been my scenario, had I decided to investigate a noise coming from our garage area in 1995. (Thankfully, I didn't go check that noise out-- it didn't even occur to me it might be a burglar.)

We were in the midst of a major remodel on our Brookfield home, and our garage was removed. The only thing keeping intruders out of our house was a make-shift, ill-fitting piece of plywood with a hasp and padlock covering our home's doorway.

And my intruders? A pair of escaped convicts from a Wisconsin prison!* Their stolen car broke down on the freeway near our home, and the two climbed the embankment and scouted the neighborhood for an easy car to steal. That would be ours. Not only was our old Oldsmobile parked outside, but it was also a model known to be an easy target for thieves. Added bonus for them: all exterior lighting had been removed for our remodeling project.

The noise? I believe they were trying to open our plywood door but maybe decided against a break-in and just took the car. They used a crowbar a workman left out to break a car window and the column, to bypass the ignition, and away they drove.

As it stands now in our state, "if a resident uses deadly or severe force against an intruder and claims self-defense against criminal prosecution, the burden of proof falls to the resident to prove the force was needed to prevent imminent death or substantial harm to himself or others."

So without a Castle Law, had they broken in my home, would I have to interview the two as to their intent before acting in self defense? Oh, so you are escaped convicts, but you just want my car? You aren't here to harm me? Well then, you should know our car uses a bit of oil.

The Castle Doctrine bill would "create an automatic presumption of immunity for the resident...", ensuring that "courts in most criminal and civil matters would presume that property owners using deadly force had acted reasonably against anyone unlawfully inside their residence, business or vehicle, whether they were armed or not."

Wisconsin's Castle bill, AB69, passed the Assembly yesterday. Next step would be to pass it in the Senate today. There is some speculation if that will happen or not, for if not today, then hopefully in the next session.

I hope we don't have to wait until next year to become the 32nd state to pass a Castle Doctrine protection. It's time Wisconsin officially made a man's home his castle!

Post Script: The Castle law was not voted on today by our Senate. According to Quorum Call at WisPolitics, it moves to tomorrow's calendar.

UPDATE 2: The Senate passed the bill Thursday, by a 26-7 vote, with 1 amendment. It then went back to the Assembly for approval. Next step is for Gov. Walker to sign it into law.

*Our car was discovered very early the following morning by a Milwaukee patrolman, who noticed it parked near one of the criminal's last known addresses. The broken window and steering column attracted his attention. The patrolman looked up the registration and realized it was stolen. The police then informed us of its recovery and the unbelievable account of our escaped con car thieves! Since we didn't even know it was stolen, it took me a while to process what the police dispatcher was telling me at 5am.


More Reading: Assembly OKs 'castle doctrine' bill backing residents' use of force on intruder
Law-abiding citizens deserve protection
Assembly passes bill giving homeowners more authority to use deadly force

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