Castle doctrine may protect Victor homeowner in intruder shooting


MISSOULA, Mont. - Ravalli County investigators report a Victor area homeowner shot and killed an alleged would-be burglar.

In a news release, Sheriff Chris Hoffman writes the burglar's actions put the homeowner "fear of his life, resulting in the homeowner discharging his handgun."

Montana's so-called Castle Doctrine addresses homeowners protecting their home. The law was passed by legislators in 2009, and it allows a person to use possible deadly force to protect their home, even if that person did not make entry in "violent, riotous or tumultuous manner."

The law also states a person can also use justifiable force without calling police or trying to flee first.

Missoula-based attorney Paul Ryan says from the details he knows, the incident in Ravalli County is a textbook case in which to apply the Castle Doctrine.

Ryan says the law relies completely on the judgment of the homeowner, which means, if he or she felt like an intruder was a threat, deadly force is justified.

Ryan says the area where the Castle Doctrine is called into play is also a factor.

"Ravalli County is much more conservative, much more open about gun rights, etc.," said Ryan. "I think there's no doubt, if the facts hold the way they've been presented, this would be a classic case of castle doctrine utilized, to the unfortunate demise of the person trying to break in."

Hoffman says the homeowner will not be identified, and is considered to be a victim.

We're told the investigation is ongoing.

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