A closer look at Nebraska’s self defense law

By: Jenn Schanz

A home invasion in Omaha ended in a fatal shooting Saturday.

After an investigation, the homeowner who shot the 19–year–old intruder was cleared.

A similar situation in Bennet took place last march; no charges were filed against a homeowner who shot and wounded his daughter's boyfriend after he made threats in their home.

A bill passed back in 2012 says if you can justify force to protect yourself and your family, you're protected under the law.

“We wanted to make clear that people did have a right to self defense and to be free from not just criminal liability but civil liability for defending themselves,” says Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha.

He introduced the legislation, a modified version of the 'Castle Doctrine'

Originally the Castle Doctrine would have allowed deadly force to be used against an invader or a kidnaper. It also would have barred any lawsuits against those who use deadly force to protect themselves or their property, but the version that passed offers a more narrow protection for those acting in self defense.

It wouldn't ban lawsuits, but would allow people to claim justifiable use of force as a reasonable defense.

Still, Lautenbaugh says the law isn't perfectly clear.

“There are certainly some gray areas left in there.”

Like what level of force is considered justified.

“If somebody gets in your house, you can shoot them, that is not a blanket statement,” says Sheriff Terry Wagner of Lancaster County. 

The law considers a number of factors, like the size of the intruder versus the size of the homeowner, and whether or not the intruder retreats once confronted.

Like most states with a Castle Doctrine, outside of private property Nebraskan's have a duty to retreat, meaning if they can get away from an attacker without force, they should.

States like Florida, with a 'Stand Your Ground' policy, don't require this.