Home Intruder

How to Legally Deal With a Home Intruder in Massachusetts

In the past year, people have seen the rise in mass shootings in the US alongside the never-ending debate regarding gun control. As an American citizen, you’re more than familiar with the term “stand your ground.”

Florida and Texas are considered as stand your ground states, where victims can use force to defend themselves during an alleged attack against their person—even without the need to retreat. Similarly, they can shoot the attacker using a gun as an act of protection because it’s part of their rights. 

Unfortunately, the state of Massachusetts has different laws. Firstly, they are not a stand your ground state, so they abide by different rules. While it is understandably jarring to be involved in an attack against your life, knowing a bit about how to handle yourself in such cases can probably save your life! In similar instances, if you don’t know your rights, you should reach out to a Boston criminal lawyer to guide you once the dust settles.

Keep reading below to find out what to do when you come face-to-face with an attacker, and the situation could put your life on the line.

Duty to Retreat

When you live in Massachusetts, it’s crucial to know that they are a “duty to retreat” state. It means that instead of inflicting damage to an attacker, you should retreat from harm and run for your life, away from danger. 

But when an attacker corners you and the situation prevents you from running away, the law is on your side, and you can use deadly force to fight the attacker—especially if your life is at risk. What’s important is prioritizing your safety and doing whatever it takes to prevent the intruder from threatening your life.

Castle Doctrine

The law indicating that the people living in MA should retreat when they are in trouble does not apply to situations that involve dealing with home intruders. Because of Castle Doctrine, a statute of MA, you are not obliged to retreat when you chance upon an intruder in your home!

Take note, however, that should the attack happen in the victim’s driveway, porch, or yard, the doctrine is inapplicable. The same goes for having guests, especially if they turn against you and put your life in danger. However, when you demand your guest to leave, or they walk out of your house only to come back later on with a gun in hand, their status immediately turns into a trespasser!

As stated by the law, you are permitted to defend yourself against the threat of physical harm. Plenty of people are charged with murder or other types of severe crime due to having self-defense as the reason behind their action. For the Court to accept the defense, the defendant needs to prove that a threat took place. 

Legal Actions Against a Threat

Regardless of living in a place that’s either a stand your ground or duty to retreat state, when you defend yourself against an attacker, your self-defense should not be graver than the threat. It means that fighting back an unarmed home intruder with twice as much effort, such as shooting them down multiple times, will be seen as excessive.

But if you catch an intruder holding a gun, then you can fight back armed as well. Even if later on the weapon they were holding turned out to be fake, you are still deemed innocent because there was a perceived threat that was present.

Meanwhile, initiating self-defense that does not equate to the threat in front of you can be considered imperfect self-defense. No law permits anyone to attack another person without a valid reason. At the same time, the consequences for any individual who uses lethal force within a stand your ground state will depend on the severity of the situation.


It’s crucial to be familiar with the law no matter what state you live in because it’s your right to defend yourself or retreat as needed once you come across danger. If you get caught in a situation that leaves you facing an attacker, helplessly protecting your life, and seeking answers in Court, getting a criminal defense attorney is necessary to ensure you get the justice you deserve. 

Are you looking for the best lawyers in Boston to defend your rights? The Fernandez Firm offers outstanding services for all kinds of criminal defense to clients in need. Get in touch with us today to book an appointment.