‘It’s a privilege to defend your house’: Attorney provides context on Castle Doctrine after intruder shooting

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TOWNSHIP OF KINGSTON, Wis. – As the Juneau County Sheriff provides more details on a report of a man shooting an intruder early Wednesday morning, a defense attorney is weighing in on how the Castle Doctrine is applied in such cases.

According to Sheriff Brent Oleson, the shooting happened in Mather, an unincorporated community in the Township of Kingston. Oleson said a homeowner reports just arriving home from work when he heard an intruder in his home at about 3:50 a.m.

The initial investigation indicates the homeowner was able to remove the unknown man the first time. When the homeowner’s wife was on the phone with dispatch, the reported intruder tried to gain entry to the residence again, and the homeowner shot him. The man shot was transported to a hospital and went into surgery.

Madison-based criminal defense attorney Chris Van Wagner said this kind of case can fall under Wisconsin’s Castle Doctrine, enacted in 2011.

“The Castle Doctrine, which is sometimes called the Stand-your-ground law, it allows you as a homeowner to defend yourself against a forcible intruder,” Van Wagner said. “You can shoot somebody in your home if they don’t belong there, they are forcibly inside, and you are presumed to act reasonably if you do so.”

Olseson said the homeowner in Mather reports that the intruder was threatening the residents in his home.

“It’s a privilege to defend your house and family in your house,” Van Wagner said, adding that the Castle Doctrine covers lethal force but doesn’t give a homeowner free reign.

“You’re going to need to answer all questions truthfully. Your behavior is going to be examined to the tenth degree. People can’t just open fire without explanation,” he said. “That being said, I think you find most responsible gun owners know that if they use the gun, it’s a last resort.”

Authorities will need to conclude their investigation, which includes verifying the homeowner’s story and learning more from the man who was shot, before making a recommendation to the county’s district attorney. The DA gets the final call on pressing charges.

Van Wagner said if the initial reports of this case stand true, “it sounds like a classic application of the right to defend your castle.”