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Missouri Self-Defense Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

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 prosecuted for a crime.

About half of the states have some version of "stand your ground" laws. These laws don't force 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 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 deadly force against intruders 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 protect yourself or others against an attack.

Missouri's law is more extensive than those of other states because it allows you to use deadly force to attack an intruder to protect any private property that you own, in addition to yourself or another individual. This means that if someone illegally enters your front porch or backyard, you can use deadly force against them without retreating first.

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.


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

Deadly force:

  • Reasonable believe that the force is necessary for self-defense or defense of others (including unborn children) to prevent death, serious physical injury, or a forcible felony.
  • The force is used against a person who unlawfully enters a dwelling, residence or vehicle.

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.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.