What is the Castle Doctrine?

Each state has its own laws protecting oneself against harm or immediate threat. In Indiana, the Indiana Code 35-41-3-2 sets out what is acceptable for self-defense—also called the Castle Doctrine. Typically, this legal doctrine (although each state may have a different interpretation) defines that your home or vehicle or otherwise legally inhabited property is something you have the right to protect in the face of imminent danger or threat.

Each of us has an instinct to protect ourselves and those we love, so when is it too far? In some states, you are required to retreat or remove yourself from the threatening situation if you can. Indiana is a little different in that it doesn’t carry this requirement, but there are elements that need to be present for self-defense claims to be effective.

Right To Be at Location

If an individual is attempting to use self-defense as a reason for their actions, three aspects must be clearly defined in the courts. One is that the defendant had the right to be at the location where the incident occurred. Along the lines of the Castle Doctrine, if the person had a legal right to be where they were when the incident was unfolding, such as their home, vehicle, or other public place, they may have had a reason to defend themselves and their loved ones.

If the defendant were in a place where they weren’t legally supposed to be, such as had they broken into a home, store, or other building and were faced with the threat of harm, if they weren’t legally supposed to be there, the self-defense option would be off the table.

No Provocation or Instigation

The second aspect that must be clearly defined is that the defendant didn’t provoke or instigate any violence in the situation. This element may be more challenging to prove as it can sometimes be he-said she-said. Still, with an effective strategy, your criminal defense attorney can help paint the picture that you were not instigating the events in any way.

In other words, the courts need to understand that the defendant wasn’t provoking the attacker in any regard and that the attacker acted in a life-threatening manner without instigation from the defendant. If it is found that the incident wouldn’t have occurred without provoking or instigating the defendant, there is likely no option for self-defense.

Reasonable Fear of Immediate Harm or Death

The final aspect that needs to be clear is that the defendant had a viable reason to fear immediate harm or death based on the situation. For example, if the attacker had access to a weapon and displayed their intent to use it on the defendant, this would likely be a viable reason for the defendant to assume immediate harm or death was a reasonable threat.

If the attacker was simply acting unreasonably, the defendant may be unable to prove they had a reasonable fear of harm or death. Yelling, for example, at the defendant without referring to threats of violence or death may not qualify as a reasonable fear of injury or death.

Stand Your Ground Law in Indiana

What does utilizing the “stand your ground” laws mean within your state? The Stand Your Ground laws reflect your options when faced with immediate harm or danger on your property. Indiana Code 35-41-3-2 stipulates using force to protect a person or property.

Within this code, the duty to retreat is not required. If the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury, they likely have a viable defense. If an unwelcome intruder is in or near your home, the threat of violence or danger is typically already present and easily proven to the courts.


If the three elements above aren’t clearly defined, a defendant may be investigated for involuntary or voluntary manslaughter rather than murder. Involuntary manslaughter involves a person acting especially carelessly, which results in another’s death. Voluntary manslaughter typically indicates the defendant acted in the intensity of the moment in a way that resulted in the other person’s death.

It is important to note that another element of self-defense is that the defendant acts with reasonable force to protect themselves. If the prosecution feels that the defendant used unreasonable force disproportionate to the present threat, manslaughter or murder may be proven instead.

Your Fierce Advocate When You Need it the Most

Being faced with serious charges such as murder is no joke and can be life-changing even without a guilty verdict. Don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss your situation and learn how we can best serve you.

We are a small law office because we like it that way. By staying smaller, we can provide our clients with the personal experience that serious matters require. We are constantly looking for ways to improve how we do business. You will quickly realize that we treat our clients like we would our family members in the same position, with respect and a fierce desire to advocate and protect them as if they were our own.

If you are facing serious criminal charges or have other related questions regarding criminal charges, call our office at (317) 623-4546. We take the time to help our clients understand what they are facing and their viable options without the “lawyer words” that may not make sense to you. Though the charges may be severe, it doesn’t immediately mean you are without options.

We look forward to serving you.