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In defense of Guam’s Castle Doctrine law's proposed expansion

By Will Parkinson

I wanted to provide the legal context for my Bill 39-37, which would reform Guam’s Castle Doctrine Law to include curtilage, outside areas of a home that can be considered inhabited space for the purposes of the Castle Doctrine. The bill seeks to ameliorate a deficiency in the law pointed out by the Guam Supreme Court in 2016. In 2016, the Guam Supreme Court ruled in the People v. John that Guam’s Castle Doctrine Law did not extend to areas outside the home. The castle doctrine provides for the right to protect one’s habitable property without a duty to retreat.

However, the law also defined “habitable property” to specifically exclude yards or outdoor spaces surrounding the building itself. This was important in the Guam Supreme Court’s analysis in People v. John because the incident in question happened on a porch. As the porch was outside the habitable property, the Guam Supreme Court opined that Castle Doctrine did not apply.

I thought this presented a legal situation that put innocent residents at an unnecessary legal disadvantage when confronting an intruder on their property.

When I introduced this bill I said the defense of the castle begins at the moat and that plays out in real life too - most intruders are intercepted not in the home itself, but outdoors.

You hear someone climbing over your fence in the middle of the night or you hear them trying to get in your car in your driveway or try to open your back door. Under current law, if you confront the robber outdoors in any of these situations and get into an altercation, you do not have any Castle Doctrine protection and you could be criminally liable for using excessive force.

As the law is currently constructed, it leaves homeowners and residents in a precarious position. They would only have Castle Doctrine protections if they confront an intruder inside their home, but would not have Castle Doctrine protections if that confrontation happened on their porch, carport, outside kitchen, yard, or other outdoor space on their property. That did not make any sense to me. When a father, mother, or other protectors of a home confronts a burglar in their own driveway, the law should be on the side of the protector and not the intruder. Bill 39-37 makes sure that the law remains on the side of the homeowner or resident defending their home and not the intruders invading their inhabited space. I think that’s just common sense.

A public hearing on this bill has not yet been scheduled, but I hope the committee will schedule it soon. I look forward to the public testimony and the debate on the floor.

Sen. Will Parkinson is a member of the 37th Guam Legislature.

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