The so-called “castle doctrine” — a long-standing provision of law giving legal protection to people who hurt or injure someone while defending themselves — was updated in 2007 doing away with the duty of homeowners to retreat from their homes, and authorizing use of deadly force against someone who unlawfully enters their home. In the recent McAlister v. Strohmeyer decisionby a Missouri appeals court, the court appears to address for the first time the statute’s immunity provision which states that the justified use of force “shall be an absolute defense to criminal prosecution or civil liability.”
In McAlister v. Strohmeyer, the court held that the “castle doctrine” prevented a woman from getting a protection order against the father of her child who pulled a gun on her.
In McAlister v. Strohmeyer, the parents had a young child together. Mother dropped off the child at Father’s home. When he said she could not come in to say goodbye to their child, she stuck her foot in the front door. Father said he told Mother that she was trespassing and tried to call the police, but she knocked the phone out of his hand and pushed her way in. While Mother was saying goodnight to the child, Father then retrieved a handgun. Mother then struck him several times. Father pointed the weapon at her and told her leave.
According to the court’s opinion, Father brandished a pistol at Mother after she barged into his home and attacked him. The court ruled that Father’s actions were justified, giving him an absolute defense to any civil liability — including an order of protection.
While fleeing or calling 911 may be the best immediate action to take, it is often crucial to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney to understand the strength or weakness of an adult abuse case. As Family Law attorneys, we regularly encounter domestic violence or “adult abuse” situations where we help clients obtain orders or protection or aid in their defense against claims lacking merit. The results of these cases depend on the specific facts of each case which vary greatly.