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Chris March 29, 2013

Defense of Person, Defense of Premises and Defense of Property are all justification defenses: a person is allowed to use force against another person and not be held criminally liable in order to defend himself, a place or property from an act against his person, place or property.

Defense of Person (Self-Defense and Defense of Others) Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 53a-19

A person is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of physical force, and he may use such degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose. See the section on Deadly Force below.

A person is not justified in using physical force when

1. with intent to cause physical injury or death to another person, he provokes the use of physical force by such other person, or

2. he is the initial aggressor, except that his use of physical force upon another person under such circumstances is justifiable if he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to such other person his intent to do so, but such other person notwithstanding continues or threatens the use of physical force, or

3. the physical force involved was the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.

Deadly Force

Deadly physical force may only be used when actor reasonably believes that such other person is (1) using or about to use deadly physical force, or (2) inflicting or about to inflict great bodily harm.

A person is not justified in using deadly force to defend himself or herself when he or she can avoid the use of such force by:

1. Retreating. A person does not have a duty to retreat in the home or office. This is the castle doctrine and the area in which “stand your ground” laws change the common law.

2. By surrendering possession of property to a person asserting a claim of right thereto

3. By complying with a demand that he or she abstain from performing an act which he or she is not obliged to perform.

“Stand Your Ground” laws refer to laws enacted in other states that remove the duty to retreat in self-defense situations. Florida’s stand your ground law, which is the most famous in the country, provides the following:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Flor. Stat. Sec. 776.013(3).

This in essence expands the “Castle Doctrine” to situations outside of premises. The common law standard, which has been codified and is used in Connecticut and most states, is known as the “Castle doctrine” holds that the duty to retreat does not apply in situations that occur inside the defender’s home or other premises. This rule is rooted in the time-honored English law precept that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.” Now back to Connecticut law.

Defense of Premises (Includes Home and Place of Business) Sec. 53a-20

A person in possession or control of premises, or a person who is licensed or privileged to be in or upon such premises, is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by such other person in or upon such premises:

The use of deadly force is only authorized in the following situations:

1. To defend a person, in which case the defense of persons law from above applies with the added “Castle Doctrine.”

2. When he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent an attempt by the trespasser to commit arson or any crime of violence, or

3. To the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry by force into his dwelling, or place of work, and for the sole purpose of such prevention or termination.

Defense of (Personal) Property Sec. 53a-21.

Despite the statute’s use of the term property, this refers to personal property—objects or money—not land or buildings, which are covered as premises.

A person is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent an attempt by such other person to commit larceny or criminal mischief involving property, or when and to the extent he reasonably believes such to be necessary to regain property which he reasonably believes to have been acquired by larceny within a reasonable time prior to the use of such for.

It is important to note that although these are justification defenses, they are defenses. They do not make someone immune from prosecution but are used to defend against charges at trial. When a person raises such a defense, the State must disprove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt. These defenses are fact-sensitive: what may be reasonable in one case may not be reasonable in another. Whether a defendant’s belief is reasonable is ultimately left for a jury.

So is a person allowed to shoot burglars and or trespassers? Yes, but it must be reasonably believed necessary to protect a person, prevent arson or another violent crime, or to prevent/terminate the unlawful entry onto those premises. There is right to “shoot on sight.” Not even in Texas.

Just as Florida has the most famous “stand your ground law” in the country, Texas has a reputation for strong defense of property customs. One

In Texas, “a person in lawful possession of land or tangible, movable property is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property.” Tex. Penal Code sec. 9.41. That doesn’t look too different from Connecticut’s law. On using deadly force to defend property, Texas statute requires that a person must be justified in using regular force and must also reasonably believe that such deadly force is immediately necessary

(A) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or

(B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; and (3) he reasonably believes that: (A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means; or (B) the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury. Sec. 9.42.

There appears to be more about the use of deadly force in protecting property. Additionally, Texas has a statutory justification for using force to defend another person’s property. Still, this does not allow a person to shoot someone who simply sets foot on his or her property.