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In defense of Castle Doctrine law

By Sen.William Parkinson

I have always believed that the protection of the castle begins at the moat.

Bill 39-37, introduced by myself earlier this year, has two parts. Each aims to resolve two issues with the Castle Doctrine Law as it stands.

The Castle Doctrine is supposed to be an immunity from prosecution for those who defend themselves in their home, but the law in the books provides no mechanism to assert such immunity. This may have been inadvertent or a poison pill added to the legislation.

In either case, the effect is the same – there is no Castle Doctrine immunity in Guam. The immunity has never been successfully asserted in a Guam court, and while we may trust the current Attorney General to not prosecute Castle Doctrine cases, we must legislate not for the officials in office now, but for the future. Bill 39-37 would resolve that discrepancy in the law by providing for a pre-trial immunity hearing to determine the applicability of the Castle Doctrine in a particular case.

The second infirmity the bill seeks to ameliorate is the ambiguity of areas just outside the home. In People v. John, the Supreme Court ruled that the Castle Doctrine did not apply to an altercation that took place on the porch of a residence because the porch, being outdoors, was not part of the “habitable” residence.

This is problematic in a number of ways. Guam has many unique home set-ups, and there are many instances in which people perform normal everyday life tasks in an outdoor space. One example would be an outdoor kitchen, somewhere you would not want to be accosted by an intruder. Some homes have spaces that blur the line between indoor and outdoor, and drawing the line for Castle Doctrine protection at what is “indoor” does not adequately protect residents from defending themselves from intruders.

Bill 39-37 would include areas of curtilage in the home, a term that is well-defined in case law. This includes outdoor areas of the home in which you would perform everyday life tasks and would thus expect a level of privacy and protection, such as porches and outdoor kitchens.

These common-sense changes to the Castle Doctrine statute were supported by both the attorney general and the public defender, further proof of the necessity of these changes to better effectuate the law. With home invasions being a serious concern, the law must stand with the residents and protect those who are trying to protect themselves and their families.

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