Will the Castle Doctrine protect the shooter of a former NFL Player?

Alfonso Gambone
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A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer representing accused persons throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

GunLast week, former NFL running, Joe McKnight, was shot and killed following an alleged road rage incident in Metairie, Louis. The shooter, Ronald Gasser, remains free as police continue to investigate what happened.  According to the news reports, however, McKnight was not armed and Gasser fired the fatal shots while seated in his vehicle as McKnight stood outside of it.  Gasser remained at the scene after shooting and was later released without being charged with any crime.  Ultimately, the authorities in Metairie will make a decision on this case but for now I do want to offer my legal opinion on it for my faithful blog readers!

To start, it appears that there’s no issue with Gasser’s right to possess the handgun in this case. Like, my home state of Pennsylvania but unlike our neighborsNew Jersey and New York, Louisiana is a “shall issue” jurisdiction, which means that it will allow a person to legally carry a handgun provided that the individual has no prior convictions for certain “enumerated” offenses (usually crimes of violence and or felonies).  In addition, a “shall issue” jurisdiction can deny someone a license to carry permit if, in the opinion, of the state’s issuing authority (Police Chief or State Police), the person has poor character which could mean a prior arrest for crimes of violence.  If Gasser didn’t have the right to carry the handgun, he would have likely been held and charged with at least illegal possession of firearm.

Obviously, a murder or even a manslaughter charge is much more serious but an illegal gun is still a serious criminal offense. In Pennsylvania, it’s felony of the 3rd degree (Section 6106) and potentially a felony of the 2nd degree, along with a separate charge (Section 6105) if the person has a prior conviction which prevents the carrying of the weapon.  In Louisiana, the carrying of handgun without a permit is actually a misdemeanor offense unless the person has a conviction that prevents the person from carrying—then it’s a felony.  Again, it appears that Gasser not only had a permit to carry but remained on scene following the incident.

Had Gasser ran, it may have changed the local authorities’ position on this matter.   Read my article on consciousness of guilt for more on that topic.  Right now, however, the focus isn’t on Gasser’s ability to legally carry but the deadly force used during this incident.  Pennsylvania and Louisiana maintain expanded versions of the Castle Doctrine (Stand Your Ground Law) which permits the use of deadly force.  Both jurisdictions permit the use of deadly force in a one’s home or dwelling, place of business, vehicle, or any other dwelling or vehicle that the person legally occupies.  The law previously only applied to a person’s home.

Both states permit a person to use deadly force if the assailant is unlawfully and forcefully entering or has entered one the “castle” area. Even if a person is outside the “castle areas” there’ s no “duty to retreat” in Pennsylvania or Louisiana.  Legal of possession of the firearm is necessary for the Castle doctrine to apply!  The victim must be in “legal possession” of a firearm to be justified in the use of that weapon. Outside “castle areas” there’s no duty to retreat if the person is confronted by another with a weapon.

Based on the current law in Louisiana, there’s strong possibility that Gasser may not face any criminal charges! He was in his vehicle and Gasser was shot outside of it.  Witnesses claim that the two men were involved in a heated argument prior to the shooting.  Gasser, however, does appear to have at least some history of violence which could change how this case proceeds.  For, now it’s important to understand that the expanded Castle Doctrine may protect him in this case. For more information on criminal defense tactics and strategies, I encourage you to visit my free download section.

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