A Closer Look At Maine’s Castle Domain Law {Part 2}

Wayne Harvey

Updated 3 years ago

In January, an Eddington man shot an intruder in the foot who was breaking into his home.In February, two men were shot as they tried to enter an apartment in Hermon. One was killed.We’ve heard about those two incidents in recent months, and there have been other home invasions, robberies, and break-ins. But is this the start of a trend Mainers should worry about?”Well I caution people when they say ‘Well we had two or three is this a trend?’ It probably isn’t a trend,” said Deputy District Attorney William Stokes. “It’s a statistical anomaly that they happened close to each other but I don’t think it’s a trend.”Bangor defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein has used the Castle Doctrine as a defense for clients in the past. He agrees the recent incidents are not a trend, but he feels that could change. “These facts don’t come up frequently, but yet they’ve come up twice in the last several months. And unfortunately with the drug situation as it is these days, you hear more and more about armed entries if you will or break-ins into peoples homes looking for contraband and other drugs and you know, I guess I’m pleasantly surprised there aren’t more of these things.”The Castle Doctrine is a very difficult law to explain and so many factors can play a part in any given scenario to determine if an action would be protected by the law.”I’m always reluctant to take a hypothetical and sort of say under these certain circumstances, sure shoot,” said Stokes. “It’s so specific as to what the facts are that I’m always cautious in telling people what circumstances would be justified or wouldn’t be because facts can change, and what the relationship between the parties is and what the exchange was between the parties and what each person was doing makes a big difference in how you evaluate the facts.”But if deadly force is used, Stokes believes the Castle Doctrine can work in front of a judge and jury. “If you have a factual basis for it, yes it can be a very viable defense. Where it falls down is where people claim the right of self defense, when they don’t. It’s just a sham. They don’t believe they need to use self defense. It’s all retribution.”Silverstein successfully used the defense for his client Jerome Reynolds after a fatal shooting in Brooks in 2005. “A woman had come into his residence. He had clearly told her several times on that particular occasion to leave before she came in. She persisted, she came in against his will knocking him down in the process. He again told her to leave. He then went and got a firearm and a third time told her to leave and rather than leaving, she advanced further into the residence and he, you know, acting in a split second, raised the gun and shot and killed her and we tried that to a jury in Belfast and ultimately a jury understood what Maine law provides and found him not guilty of any criminal offense.”But Silverstein wants everyone to know the gravity of any similar situation. “Anybody who picks up a firearm, even to defend themselves in their own home, is putting at risk their future, in so far as, it may be scrutinized by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges or juries as having been a wrong decision, not rationally and reasonably based, and therefore, they could be in line for prosecution that could take their liberty away for quite a long time.”For More information check out Title 17-A SS 104 and Title 17-A SS 108 of the Maine Criminal Code.


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