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Missouri Self-Defense Laws

If a person is under attack and in fear for their life, they have the right to use force to protect themselves. Every state has self-defense laws that detail the circumstances under which an individual can use self-defense (and the limits of the force that may be used) to justify their conduct without being convicted of a crime.

About half of the states have some version of "stand your ground" laws. These laws don't require people to back down from an attacker even when withdrawal is possible. A common variation on this concept is the "castle doctrine" which allows individuals to defend themselves against threats in and to their homes (expanded in some states to include cars and/or workplaces) without the duty to retreat.

Missouri Castle Doctrine

Missouri recognizes the "castle doctrine" and allows residents to use force against intruders, without the duty to retreat, based on the notion that your home is your "castle." This legal doctrine assumes that if an invader disrupts the sanctity of your home, they intend to do you harm and therefore you should be able to repel their advances.

Missouri's law is more extensive than the law in other states because it permits property owners to use the amount of force reasonably perceived as necessary, including deadly force.

However, case law suggests it does not go so far as permitting the use of deadly force to merely protect property. In 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District held in State v. Whipple that deadly force under the castle doctrine can only be used when you reasonably believe such force is necessary to protect yourself or someone else from "the use or imminent use of unlawful force."

Ultimately, it's an unclear issue that will likely need further clarification by the state judiciary or legislature.

Summary of Missouri Self-Defense Laws

While it's best to work with an attorney to fully comprehend the meaning of a statute, it's also useful to read a plain language version of the text to become familiar with the law. See the chart below for a short summary of Missouri's self-defense laws.

Statutes

Missouri Revised Statutes:

  • Section 563.031 (use of physical force in defense of others)
  • Section 563.041 (use of physical force in defense of property)
  • Section 563.033 (battered spouse evidence for self-defense)

Justified Use of Force

 

 

Physical force:

  • May be used when individuals reasonably believe that the physical force used is necessary for the defense of themselves (or others) from an imminent attack of unlawful force from another person.
  • May be used when individuals believe that the force is reasonably necessary to prevent another person from stealing, causing property damage, or tampering.

Deadly force:

  • May be used when a person reasonably believes that the level of force is necessary for self-defense or defense of others (including unborn children) in response to an imminent threat.

No Duty to Retreat

A person has no duty to retreat:

  • From their dwelling, residence, or vehicle
  • From their private property
  • If the person is any other location where they have the right to be

Battered Spouse Syndrome Evidence

Evidence that the actor was suffering from battered spouse syndrome is admissible regarding the issue of self-defense or defense of others.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Missouri Self-Defense Laws: Related Resources

A Missouri Attorney Can Answer Your Self-Defense Questions

If you or someone you know is charged with a crime where Missouri's self-defense laws can help to justify the actions, then it's important to get legal help. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can determine whether Missouri's castle doctrine applies in your case or whether another defense strategy is appropriate.

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