WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 14, 2013, 10:04 PM

A look at your right to protect your home against intruders

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) – Tonight, a look at what you need to know about your right to protect your home when faced with an intruder.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) – Tonight, a look at what you need to know about your right to protect your home when faced with an intruder.

Both North Dakota and Minnesota have what are called "Castle Doctrine" laws, which say homeowners can use force and even deadly force if necessary to protect their home.

But people need to use careful judgment when stopping a crime or they could end up charged with a crime themselves.

They say your home is your castle and homeowners want to do everything in their power to protect it.

But when it comes to using actual force, it's important to know your rights.

Brie Corfman, Fargo resident: “You have a right to protect what's yours, but weapons are dangerous.”

Dan McCollum, Fargo resident: “Yes if someone is threatening you, you have a right to use deadly force, but it can go too far.”

Minnesota law states you can take someone else's life if you believe your or another's life is in danger, or if the person is going to commit a felony in your home.

But Clay County attorneys say any use of force has to be deemed reasonable under the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

It's a similar story in North Dakota.

Birch Burdick, Cass County State’s Attorney: “The overriding principal whenever you use force is never use more than is necessary.”

State's Attorney Birch Burdick says force is justified if someone is on your property and shouldn't be.

The homeowner is expected to retreat if possible, but once inside the home or an office, that's not necessary.

Burdick: “The law expects that you're going to ask that person to desist from what they're doing, but you don't have to do that if it's useless or dangerous to do that.”

Sometimes, killing an intruder in your home can end in serious charges.

Last Thanksgiving, 64-year-old Byron Smith killed two teenagers who apparently broke into his Little Falls, Minn. home.

The teens were not armed and Smith shot them on sight.

He is now charged with first-degree murder in their deaths.

Burdick: "I don't think people think a lot ahead of time about what they're going to do. They act."

If the threat is not immediate, call police to handle the situation rather than trying to handle it yourself.