It’s late at night and you just went to bed and turned out the lights. Just as you are about to fall asleep, you hear the unmistakable sound of your front door opening. What do you do to protect yourself and your home. What exactly are your rights?
Under Minnesota law, you can protect yourself, up to and including killing the intruder, in the following circumstances.
“…when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor’s place of abode.”
In plain and simple English, that means that if you can reasonably believe that the intruder intends to rob you, or cause you harm, then you have the right to defend yourself by whatever means necessary. The killing of an intruder under these circumstance is not a crime. However there are three things you should be sure of before firing that gun.
Are you preventing a felony?
This one sounds tricky, but it all comes down to simple reasoning. If an intruder breaks into your home with a bag in hand to collect your belongings, that speaks of burglary, which is a felony.
If they come at you, or threaten you in any way with a weapon of any type, that also is a felony. You do not have to wait until the attack or burglary happens to protect yourself.
Please note, however, that the Minnesota law only covers you inside “your place of abode”. You can not shoot through a door or a window if the burglar is outside your home stealing your collection of garden gnomes, no matter how precious they are to you.
Is the situation serious enough to warrant your action?
In other words, do you really have a right to be afraid for yourself and property? For instance, if your intruder is an unarmed child–how much danger are you actually in? Make sure that you can safely say that you were in danger.
Is your decision to defend the right one to make?
If your intruder is unarmed and weaker than you, then you most likely are not justified to kill them. You still have the right to defend yourself and home against a felony, but deadly force isn’t a matter to be taken lightly. If other means of stopping the felony exist, without danger to yourself, it makes sense to use them before resorting to using a firearm.
Doesn’t Minnesota law require you to retreat before using deadly force?
That is the law in Minnesota, yes. However the above situations are exempted from the requirement. You do have the right to protect yourself and home against a felony, without having to retreat.
However, with that being said, Minnesota is not a “stand your ground” state. That means that once the intruder is down, you do not have the right to finish him off out of anger. Once the danger to yourself is over, call 911 and wait for the authorities.
Stories of home invasions are almost a nightly occurrence on the daily news, but the story doesn’t always have to have an unhappy ending. People have the right to protect themselves and their home, and they should not fear the consequences of doing so as long as they follow the letter of the law.
If you have experienced an intrusion to your home, and have taken measures to protect yourself, you may want to contact us for advice. The law is complex and confusing with a lot of weight on “what a reasonable person would do”. We can help you work your way through the legal system and prove your actions were justified.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.