Wisconsin law is currently awaiting the expected signing by Governor Scott Walker of AB 69 into law. Both houses of the State Legislature passed the legislation relating to presumptions of self-defense in defending private property.
AB 69 clarifies and expands a property owner's right to use deadly force against someone who unlawfully and forcibly enters a dwelling, vehicle, or place of business regardless of whether deadly force is reasonably necessary.
A “dwelling” is "any premises or portion of a premises that is used as a home or a place of residence and that part of the lot or site on which the dwelling is situated that is devoted to residential use" and also includes driveways, sidewalks, porches, garages, etc.
If and when Governor Walker signs the bill into law, there will be a change in the presumption relating to defending such a dwelling. Under current law, the Court must determine whether a person who kills an intruder reasonably believed the force was necessary to defend against imminent death or substantial harm. Under the new law, the Court must presume that the person defending their property was justified in killing an intruder.
The presumption applies if a intruder entered or was in the process of entering a dwelling, vehicle, or place of business unlawfully and by force. If the property owner is present and reasonably believes that an unlawful or forcible entry is occurring, the property owner is presumed justified to use deadly force.
The presumption does not apply if the intruder is a self-identified “public safety worker.” The presumption also does not apply if the property owner is engaged in criminal activity.
The presumption applies both to limit criminal prosecution of the property owner and to bar civil suits against a property owner.
Attorney James N. Graham, real estate attorney with Accession Law LLC