If circumstances happen to place you into a potentially threatening situation in Madison, you may feel completely justified having to respond with force to defend yourself and/or others/ What do you say, then, if your actions subsequently come under criminal scrutiny? 

Many in this very situation have come to us here at Christopher T. Van Wagner, S.C. asking when the law permits one to act in self-defense. Understanding the answer to that question requires determining when you have a duty to retreat. 

When must you retreat? 

A duty to retreats describes those scenarios in which the law expects you to retreat from a contentious situation before it devolves into violence. Wisconsin state law does allow you to defend yourself if a real threat of force against you exists (or you have reason to believe one does), yet the exercise of such a right must be judicious. Some states have adopted “stand your ground” laws that do not require you to retreat from any threatening situation, yet Wisconsin state law limits that privilege.

The Castle Doctrine

Rather than adopting a full “stand your ground” stance, the state instead follows “the Castle Doctrine.” This comes from the old English adage likening your home to a castle, and as such, you have the right to defend it. Indeed, Section 939.49 of Wisconsin’s state statutes says that you have the right to use force (even deadly force) to prevent an unlawful intrusion on to your property. That right also extends to you defending another’s property if the property owner is an immediate family member or household member, or you have a legal duty to protect the property or are acting as the property owner’s agent.

You can find more information on defending yourself from criminal accusations by continuing to explore our site.