The common law duty of reasonable retreat in self-defense used outside of the home may be eliminated if the Minnesota Defense of Dwelling and Person Act of 2011, passed by the Minnesota house and currently headed to the senate for a vote, is enacted into law. Current Minnesota law authorizes the use of deadly force when necessary to resist a crime, and there is an objective, good faith belief in the threat of great bodily harm or death, or to prevent the commission of a felony in your home.
Although not contained in Minnesota statues, common law imposes a duty to retreat when reasonable. However, neither Minnesota statutes nor common law impose any such duty when reasonably defending yourself or your home during a home invasion. The thought is that reasonable retreat in self-defense outside the home applies because there may be a safer place, your home. By contrast, self-defense in and of the home is paramount to the protection of family. The only Minnesota cases where there was duty to retreat applied to self-defense in the home involved circumstances where the deadly force was objectively unreasonable.
The Minnesota Defense of Dwelling and Person Act would eliminate the duty to retreat outside the home and would authorize the good faith use of force against an assailant until the danger ends. In addition, this bill expands the definition of a dwelling to include any permanent or temporary overnight accommodations (e.g. vehicle, boat, hotel, etc.), as well as the area immediately surrounding the home.
The bill is expected to pass with bi-partisan support.
Coley Grostyan is a Minneapolis, MN criminal defense attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs, and throughout the State of Minnesota.