Self-Defense Rights Against An Intruder In Your Home - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Self-Defense Rights Against An Intruder In Your Home



     What would you do to protect yourself in your own home? An escaped inmate holds two elderly people hostage in southwest Iowa only to have the hostages turn on him, and shoot him dead.  All of this happened Monday night and early Tuesday morning in Bedford. Police say Rodney Long escaped from a minimum security prison in Clarinda last week. He then shot an officer Sunday night and got away. Long eventually found his way into a home and held the couple there for four hours.
     The 71-year-old homeowner told investigators Long was armed with a semi-automatic handgun when he and his wife decided to defend themselves. "It's because he feared for he and his wife's safety. He thought that at the end of this situation, whenever it was going to end, that they'd be killed," said Mitch Mortvedt, Iowa DCI major crime unit.
     For cases like this, self-defense laws vary from state to state. Officials say the Bedford couple will face no charges in connection with the shooting. While it won't always seem as cut and dry as this case, local attorneys say you're always entitled to use reasonable force to protect yourself, especially in your home.
     "Are you going to get in trouble for defending yourself, you know. I guess it depends on your own judgement call if you're in fear for you life," said David Jones of Moline.
     Knowing what you can and can't do when face to face with a threat on you or your family. Some Quad Citians say they're not completely clear on what the law allows. "Not really, not on all of it. I mean, we know enough to protect ourselves," said Virginia Cook of Davenport.
     In Iowa, you are justified in the use of reasonable force if you believe it's necessary in defense against harm.
      "It's going to be an objective standard, based on a reasonable person," said Scott County Attorney Mike Walton.  In your own home, Walton says the justification is heightened. As opposed to public situations, the Iowa Castle Doctrine says an individual has no duty to retreat while at home. However, whether or not using deadly force is necessary is generally based proportionally to the threat you face.
     "If a ten year old kid or young kid wanders into a house by mistake would you have a right to shoot them on sight, probably not unless you can establish there was a real threat," added Walton.
     Illinois is very similar in that if you legally own a firearm you can use it in self-defense in your home as long as there's a justifiable reason.
     "You have to look at each individual case and the facts of each individual case," said Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee. He says he doesn't see a lot of cases involving self-defense against intruders, but that the issue is now somewhat of a moving target when it comes to how these laws apply in the public arena.
     "There's been a debate in the public as it relates to this especially with the new concealed carry law," said McGehee.
     Neither Iowa nor Illinois have a "Stand Your Ground" law in place, which allows people to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight even in public places. Meantime, in Florida the legislature voted against having a special session to repeal the state's Stand Your Ground law. It was overwhelming 108 to 47. Dozens of legislators asked for the special session after the George Zimmerman verdict.


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