Break-In Raises Questions About Self-Defense Laws

Posted at: 11/26/2012 5:38 PM
Updated at: 11/26/2012 11:04 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

A Little Falls man is charged with murder after an apparent home invasion, and the incident is raising questions across the state. Self defense laws can be confusing for many people, and Saint Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin explained what's legal in Minnesota.

"It's not an automatic," Rubin said. "Just because someone comes into your home, doesn't mean you can kill them."

Rubin said state law allows people to stand their ground, in their home, and approach conflict with deadly force, if necessary. That's only if the victim reasonably believes they can be greatly harmed or killed, and a jury has to believe it too.

"It boils down to what was going through the mind of the person who fired the shot," Rubin said. "Are 12 people on a jury going to conclude that it was a reasonable decision?"

Frank Lefevre teaches firearm classes at Saginaw Firearms, Inc., and he teaches people to avoid conflict, if at all possible.

"The firearm is not the answer," Lefevre said. "The only time that firearm comes into play is if all other options have been exhausted."

Lefevre said warning intruders you have a gun, calling 911 and hiding in a room are all better options. He said if you pull the trigger your fate will end up in a jury's hands. That's how initial victims can become criminals.

"They are going to have weeks to deliberate," Lefevre said. "We only have a couple hundredths of a second to make a decision."

In Minnesota, you are required to avoid conflict, if possible, outside of your home. Wisconsin state law does not require you to retreat anywhere you have a legal right to be.