The Missouri House has advanced a bill that would broaden the definition of who may use deadly force in self-defense. The bill aims to allow babysitters to use force if threatened, yet the law could be interpreted to include any guests of private spaces.
Missouri HB 2126 would extend the state’s Castle Doctrine – an individual’s right to protect their home against intruders – to include anyone in a residence with direct permission from the resident. The bill is portrayed as an attempt to authorize deadly force by a babysitter or nanny “in the event of a home invasion.”
“This is a common sense extension of the law that would empower a nanny or babysitter, or anyone with the owner’s permission to occupy a property, to defend himself or herself against an intruder,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R), in a press release.
Yet legal experts point out that the language of the bill is so broad that the law may apply to anyone who is a guest on a private space, such as a patron of a restaurant, bar, or retail shop.
The bill says force is allowed against a person who “unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter private property that is owned or leased by an individual, or is occupied by an individual who has been given specific authority by the property owner to occupy the property, claiming a justification of using protective force under this section.”
“Stand Your Ground” laws that have passed in several US states allow for deadly force – if there is a fear of imminent death or great bodily harm – without a duty to retreat wherever an individual is legally allowed to be.
Yet the Missouri law calls for protection against “unlawful entry,” which, for example, could mean a vigilant patron at a sporting event who notices someone entering the event without buying a ticket could be justified in using deadly force to defend other event patrons.
An “occupant” in the eyes of this law could include someone parking in a parking lot or visiting a moving theater who feels deadly force is needed to defend themselves or others, according to Missouri property law expert Dale A. Whitman.
“It’s really broad,” Whitman, a professor emeritus of law at the University of Missouri, told ThinkProgress. “I take it any time you’re on somebody else’s real estate with the authority or approval of the owner, you fit in this category.”
Whitman added that language like “specific authority” is too vague to clarify at this point.
“I have no idea what the difference between specific authority and authority is,” Whitman said, adding that when one enters a grocery store through automatic doors, that is “certainly authority” to go inside and shop.
McGaugh’s office did not comment on how the law’s language could be misinterpreted, though it did say the bill was aimed at allowing threatened babysitters to shoot.
The bill is now being considered in the Missouri Senate and may get a vote there later this week, according to KCTV.