What is the New Castle Law in North Dakota?

ND Castle Doctrine: Stand Your Ground, Firearms

In April 2021, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed legislation that eases restrictions on a person’s right to use deadly force in self-defense and eliminates the duty to retreat before using deadly force.

These laws, commonly known as the “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground,” provide people with additional protection, particularly inside their home, and permit the use of deadly force to defend themselves or others against death, serious bodily injury, or against a violent felony. 

Before the new law was passed, people in North Dakota were under a “duty to retreat” and were required to avoid resorting to violence to defend themselves, even in their own homes. 

Under the new law, a person can respond with proportional force, and even deadly force, to protect themselves or others.

The new law brings North Dakota into line with over half of U.S. states and protects North Dakotans’ Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms for the defense of their person, family, and property.  

North Dakota Adopts the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws

The new law was introduced because legislators believed that criminals had an advantage over potential victims, who were under a duty to retreat when faced with a life-threatening situation, even in their own homes. According to the sponsor of the bill, Republican Representative Ben Koppelman, of West Fargo, the legislation is “the most consequential gun law change in North Dakota for a long time.” 

North Dakota’s Castle Doctrine

Under the castle doctrine, a person is justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves against a home invader. The castle doctrine is a type of self-defense claim that operates in a specific situation and states that a person does not have a duty to retreat when they are in their own home. It permits the use of deadly force to defend against a home invader. 

North Dakota’s castle doctrine legislation received broad support in both legislative chambers, passing the House with a vote of 76-10 and the Senate with a vote of 35-10. 

Stand Your Ground

Similar to the castle doctrine, North Dakota’s new stand your ground law eliminates the need to retreat if a person is threatened with violence in a place they are legally allowed to be. The stand your ground law removes the requirement that a person attempt to escape before resorting to the use of deadly force. 

Unlike the castle doctrine, which only applies in a person’s home, stand your ground laws apply anywhere a person is legally allowed to be. 

Under the stand your ground law, a person is justified in using deadly force in self-defense or to prevent a violent felony in a public place or any other place a person is legally permitted to be. They are no longer under a duty to retreat and may use proportional force to prevent a violent felony or to protect themselves, their family, or others. 

Limitations of North Dakota’s Stand Your Ground Law

When the stand your ground was originally introduced in 2017, there were concerns that it would be used by bad actors who would falsely claim self-defense but were never in actual danger. To address these concerns, the new law states that the duty to retreat is removed only when a person is not engaged in unlawful activity that gives rise to the need to use deadly force and has not provoked the individual against whom deadly force is used.

When Does Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine Apply?

The castle doctrine and stand your ground laws justify the use of force to prevent unlawful entry, trespass, or carrying away of property and permit the use of force in self-defense, defense of others, or to prevent death, serious bodily injury, or the commission of a violent felony.  

In addition to permitting the use of force, a person who uses force as permitted under the castle doctrine and stand your ground law is immune from civil liability for the use of force. 

Understanding North Dakota’s Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Law

The laws that apply to the use of force in response to a threat of violence are complex. If you were involved in a situation in which you believe the use of force was justified, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain your rights and help protect you from prosecution. 

At Fremstad Law, criminal defense attorney Nick Thornton can explain how the castle doctrine and stand your ground laws will affect your situation. He will evaluate what happened, explain the law that applies, and, if necessary, provide you with a vigorous defense in court. 

We invite you to learn more about our criminal defense practice and our mission, and to contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.