Wisconsin Court Rules Castle Doctrine Doesn’t Apply Outside Home

By TODD RICHMOND | October 3, 2014

A man who shot at two intruders as they fled after beating him in his apartment can’t invoke Wisconsin’s castle doctrine law to protect him from liability, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case that clarified how far the self-defense statute extends.

The ruling stems from a case involving Charles Chew. According to court documents, his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend and one of the new boyfriend’s friends entered Chew’s Sheboygan Falls apartment and beat him in November 2012, breaking Chew’s nose and three of his ribs.

Chew shot each of the men in the leg during the attack. They left the apartment and ran across a nearby parking lot. Chew continued to fire at them from the apartment doorway as they ran away. He missed the men but two rounds hit a nearby hotel and another struck a nearby car.

The attackers each pleaded no contest to felony battery in January 2013, according to online court records. Chew, meanwhile, was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment.

He tried to invoke the castle doctrine law, which allows homeowners to use deadly force to defend themselves against intruders in their dwellings. But a trial judge ruled that the statute didn’t apply in Chew’s case. A jury ultimately found him guilty and he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison last May.

Chew, now 29, argued to the 2nd District Court of Appeals that he should have been allowed to use the castle doctrine as a defense, saying he didn’t know who the men were or whether they would return and he wanted to protect himself.

The appeals court rejected that argument Tuesday, ruling that the castle doctrine allows homeowners to use deadly force against intruders only when the intruder is inside of their dwellings. Nothing shows that Chew’s attackers were inside of the apartment when he fired the shots at them from the doorway, the court said, adding that the parking lot wasn’t part of the apartment.

“The castle doctrine does not justify continued use of deadly force against an intruder when that intruder is no longer in the actor’s dwelling,” the court’s opinion said.

Chew’s attorney, Katie Ruth York, didn’t immediately respond to voicemail and email messages seeking comment about the ruling.

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