Recent events in Kenosha have raised questions about Wisconsin’s laws regarding the use of a firearm in self-defense. While we make no judgments regarding any ongoing cases, it is important for all Wisconsin residents to understand their rights to self-defense according to state law, especially if they find themselves under attack or facing criminal charges. Cases involving self-defense can be complicated, and if you are facing charges, your best option to avoid a conviction is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who can develop a strategy based on a thorough understanding of the law.
When Is Self-Defense Legally Justified in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin law allows you to threaten or use force against another person when you reasonably believe that they intend to do you harm or illegally interfere with your person. However, you are authorized to use only the force necessary to prevent the harm or interference from occurring. This means that you may only use deadly force in self-defense if you reasonably believe that it is necessary to prevent someone from killing or doing great bodily harm to you. You are also permitted to use force to defend a third party if your intervention is necessary to protect him or her from harm.
If you provoke an attack, you may not be able to claim legal self-defense against the attack unless it is likely to cause your death or great bodily harm. Even then, you must attempt every other reasonable option to escape, avoid, or prevent the attack before resorting to deadly force yourself. Additionally, you may not be entitled to a claim of self-defense if you provoked another person’s attack as an excuse for you to kill or severely harm that person.
Understanding Wisconsin’s Castle Doctrine
The above laws apply for an attack that occurs in virtually any location in Wisconsin, but since 2011, Wisconsin has offered special protections for people who are attacked in their homes, vehicles, or places of business. The laws providing these protections are known as the Castle Doctrine, and they allow you to use force intended to cause death or great bodily harm on a person who has entered or is in the process of entering your residence, vehicle, or workplace illegally or forcibly. Under these circumstances, you have no legal duty to retreat or flee before using force. However, in order to invoke this defense, you must have been present inside the property in question at the time, and you must have had reason to believe that the person’s entry was unlawful.
The Castle Doctrine can protect you from facing both criminal and civil charges for using force in self-defense. However, this protection does not extend to you if you were engaged in criminal activity at the time of the attack, or if the person entering the property was a law enforcement officer performing official duties.
Contact a Milwaukee, WI County Criminal Defense Attorney
It can be extremely challenging to interpret how Wisconsin self-defense laws apply to your specific case, and to determine the best defense strategy in cases involving homicide, assault, or illegal use of a weapon, you need a skilled attorney who can demonstrate that your actions were in self-defense. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, we have the experience to handle these complicated cases. Contact a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer today at 414-271-1440.