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Self Defense: Defending your home

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235


Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

Its late at night, you are asleep. Suddenly you awake to what sounds to be your front door knob jiggling and turning. You tell yourself its nothing and try to fall back asleep. Then all of a sudden you hear a window break. You run downstairs to find a masked robber with a loaded gun in his hand. A nightmare situation for anyone to be sure, but if you also had a gun, for home defense, would you be able to use force to stop the burglar?

In Massachusetts, like anywhere else, you have the right to defend your own dwelling. This right derives from self-defense and can be used if say you attacked the robber, injuring him and disarming him; or you killed him. The law states that an occupant is relieved from liability for the death or injury to the robber if the occupant acted in the reasonable belief that the person who unlawfully entered the house was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon the occupant or another person lawfully in the dwelling. 

Massachusetts is a little weird when it comes to self-defense. Generally you only have the right to run away before you can use any force. This is known as the duty to retreat. In a nutshell it says that in order before you can use any force, especially deadly, to defend yourself, you must have exhausted every available option to not use force and escape. If you cannot escape, then you can use force to defend yourself. However, it is important to note that you do not have a duty to retreat when someone unlawfully enters your home. So you do not have to run from your own home if you see the burglar has a gun before you can use force to defend your home. (picture taken by the shopping sherpa

home doorOn a final note, the term dwelling is meant to refer to the inside of your home or apartment unit, not the property surrounding it. In other words, you can only use force on the burglar if he is inside your home, not in your driveway.

So to answer my question above, yes I feel that the court would find that you would be justified in using force, even deadly force on the burglar to defend your home. He is clearly an unlawful entrant, he is holding a deadly weapon that he appears to use on you and possibly others in the home, and this weapon can cause great bodily injury or death. Therefore it seems to me that any force you use on the robber would be justified under the defense of defending ones dwelling.


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