Arkansas Castle Doctrine… A National Model

December 11, 2012

“The right of an individual to defend himself or herself and the life of a person or property in the individual’s home against harm, injury, or loss by a person unlawfully entering or attempting to enter or intrude into the home is reaffirmed as a fundamental right to be preserved and promoted as a public policy in this state.” ~ Arkansas Criminal Code § 5-2-620

Recent incidents nationwide have brought attention to various “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” laws governing the use of deadly force both inside and outside your home. State legislatures have been pushed to revise and clarify these issues and fortunately for us, Arkansas laws providing for self-defense offer tremendous individual protection for, and give an unprecedented benefit-of-the-doubt to, the home owner. It speaks for itself and there is no other state in the union that can boast a better Castle Doctrine than Arkansas.

The Arkansas Castle Doctrine has essentially two parts ~ the ability to defend yourself inside your home (Castle Doctrine) and the ability to defend yourself outside your home (Stand Your Ground). Lets take a look at each and examine how they affect Arkansans faced with a life and death situation.Arkansas Criminal Statue §5-2-620 provides that: “(a) The right of an individual to defend himself or herself and the life of a person or property in the individual’s home against harm, injury, or loss by a person unlawfully entering or attempting to enter or intrude into the home is reaffirmed as a fundamental right to be preserved and promoted as a public policy in this state.”


Additionally, subsection (b) clearly states “there is a legal presumption that any force or means used to accomplish a purpose described in subsection (a) of this section was exercised in a LAWFUL and NECESSARY manner, unless the presumption is overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” This is almost an insurmountable burden for the prosecution to overcome, and we have seen this in fact played out in the courts with few cases where individuals were found guilty for a failure to retreat. However, it is important to note that any exercise must be LAWFUL and NECESSARY with regards to the life and safety of the victim. If by chance an individual is prosecuted in an attempt to discredit their use of self-defense under this statute, Arkansas law requires: “the public policy stated in subsection (a) of this section shall be strictly complied with by the court and an appropriate instruction of this public policy shall be given to a jury sitting in trial of criminal charges brought in connection with this public policy.” But under what circumstances may an individual exercise the use of deadly force? Arkansas Criminal Code § 5-2-607 outlines in detail how and when the use of deadly force is authorized:

§ 5-2-607 (a) A person is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person if the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or about to commit a felony involving force or violence;

(2) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force; or

(3) Imminently endangering the person’s life or imminently about to victimize the person as described in 9-15-103 from the continuation of a pattern of domestic abuse.

(b) A person may not use deadly physical force in self-defense if the person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force with complete safety:

(1) (A) By retreating.

(B) However, a person is not required to retreat if the person is:

(i) In the person’s dwelling or on the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling and was not the original aggressor; or

(ii) A law enforcement officer or a person assisting at the direction of a law enforcement officer; or

(2) By surrendering possession of property to a person claiming a lawful right to possession of the property.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) “Curtilage” means the land adjoining a dwelling that is convenient for residential purposes and habitually used for residential purposes, but not necessarily enclosed, and includes an outbuilding that is directly and intimately connected with the dwelling and in close proximity to the dwelling; and

(2) “Domestic abuse” means:

(A) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members; or

(B) Any sexual conduct between family or household members, whether minors or adults, that constitutes a crime under the laws of this state

What should be carefully noted is that in this doctrine, our duty to retreat has two very important caveats. The first is that the individual must know that he can retreat, and the second is that he must know he can retreat with COMPLETE SAFETY… not some, or a predominate amount of, but COMPLETE SAFETY. These two caveats provide exceptional legal protection for the individual using deadly force in their self-defense because the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person claiming self defense not only knew he could retreat, BUT that he could retreat with complete safety. Again, this is an almost insurmountable burden for the prosecution to overcome in a criminal prosecution.

Individuals who have had training know that in any situation that could evolve into the use of deadly force, the first option is to try and avoid it at all costs WITHOUT risking your life or the lives of those around you. Attempting to back out of a dangerous situation is always the most desirable option, however, when that is NOT an option, and you must use force, do NOT hesitate. It takes only a matter of moments for a perpetrator to close the distance between you and him/her. Taking another person’s life is a tragic experience and affects more than just those individuals directly involved. Be judicious when making that decision, but be decisive, because seconds count.

In the event that you are involved in a situation that has required the use of self-defense, consult with an attorney, before making ANY statements to law enforcement investigators. Your attorneys should work vigorously to ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the best counsel possible.

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(The information contained in this article are for INFORMATIONAL purposes only and should NOT be construed in imply legal counsel or advise)


About the author

As a Marine Corps Combat and Public Affairs veteran, Robert Philip Dean has seen the cultural and religious differences that have caused the current strife between the United States and Middle East countries, as well as those individuals who are attempting to usurp the Constitution and overthrow the Country. Robert has several years’ experience dealing with political and military issues on the local, state and national levels where he was successful in helping Conservative candidates win election to the House and Senate. He currently focuses his Alliance on enforcement of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, National Defense, illegal immigration/border security and guarding against foreign groups attempting to undermine the Spirit of American Exceptionalism. Robert was graduated from George Washington University with a Bachelor degree in Political science and currently resides with the farm animals in Little Rock, Arkansas.



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Great article! It reinforced what I learned in my Concealed Carry class long ago. I'm glad y!ou stressed the fact that it's always best to avoid a dangerous situation if there is any way you can retreat to a completely safe place. If a gun fight begins there is only one winner and you don't want it to be the bad guy.  You don't have anything prove other than the fact you're still alive so don't try to be the hero.  I'd rather be a live chicken than a dead hero!  You won't be completely safe in a gun fight!

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