Charges "rare" against those who shoot intruders

At least in Virginia, the castle doctrine is the de facto standard. What is the law differs from what juries are going to do.

. . . . The Virginian-Pilot reviewed reports of several similar cases in recent years. In most, prosecutors did not file charges against people who shot intruders. When prosecutors do file charges, the cases go to juries that often are sympathetic to the shooters.

"You can instruct juries all you want to on what the law is, but juries have the ultimate power to acquit for any reason they want," said Ronald Bacigal, a professor at the University of Richmond's law school.

In Virginia, prosecutors say, citizens can use deadly force to defend their lives, but not solely to defend property.

For years, including this year, the General Assembly has considered proposals to make the so-called "castle doctrine" part of state law, which would extend more protection to those who defend themselves from intruders.

Del. Bill Cleaveland, a Botetourt County Republican, who introduced the proposal this year, said it's important for people to know they can use deadly force when their lives are threatened because the police won't always be there.

"When you codify the case law as it is now," he said, "it has an extra exclamation point, that, 'This is recognized in Virginia.' "

Still, for practical purposes, the castle doctrine already is in effect when cases involve home intruders. . . .

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