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Friday, November 4, 2011

New Wisconsin law protects homeowners who shoot intruders

By Jason Stein

Wisconsin  homeowners who shoot intruders would receive strong legal protection, under a bill approved by the state Senate on Thursday and the Assembly early Friday.

Under the bill, courts in most criminal and civil matters would presume that property owners using deadly force had acted reasonably against anyone unlawfully inside their residence, business or vehicle, whether the trespasser was armed or not. The proposal is sometimes known as the "castle doctrine," a reference to the saying that one's home is one's castle.

The legislation is one of a slew of bills moving through the Legislature this week as GOP lawmakers advance their agenda ahead of recall efforts expected to start against Walker and state senators later this month.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin became the 49th state in the country to allow people to carry concealed firearms. Republicans said the castle doctrine bill was another step in helping law-abiding residents protect themselves.

"A person has a right to defend themselves and their family in their dwelling," said Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), a lead sponsor of the legislation and a former police officer. "The fundamental issue is about protecting life, not property."

Some district attorneys like John Chisholm of Milwaukee County and Joe DeCecco of Sheboygan County have said Wisconsin, like most states, doesn't need a castle doctrine bill because existing law provides more than adequate protection for anyone legitimately acting in self-defense.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he has not reviewed the particulars of the bill but that he supports the general concept.

Under existing law, a person can't seek to kill or wound someone unless he or she reasonably believes it's needed to prevent the same type of injury to himself or herself. Supporters of the bill say that people in their homes or businesses don't necessarily have the time to check whether an intruder is trying to hurt them.
The proposed immunity under the castle doctrine legislation wouldn't apply to people who were using their home or other property for crimes such as drug dealing.

It also wouldn't shield a shooter who attacked someone who he or she knew or should have known was a police officer. The Senate approved on a voice vote Thursday a Democratic amendment to offer that same legal protection to firefighters and emergency medical technicians.


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