Author: David M. Williams, Jr., Fredericksburg Personal Injury Attorney
Two bills giving Virginians the green light to use deadly force against intruders into their homes died in the 2012 General Assembly session.
The "Castle doctrine" originated from old English common law rules protecting a person's home and the principle underlying the phrase "a person's home is their castle". The doctrine allows the use of physical force, including deadly force, by a person in his/her home against an intruder who has committed an overt act against him/her or against someone else lawfully in the home. Many states have laws that are based on the Castle Doctrine. One of the Virginia bills would have protected a person from criminal prosecution while the other would have granted immunity from civil lawsuits.
Senator Richard Stuart (R-Stafford), sponsor of SB 4, and Delegate Richard P. "Dickie" Bell (R-Stanton), sponsor of HB 48, pulled their respective bills after concerns were raised that the legislation could weaken protections already established in common law. The bill had initially passed the house. Several pro-gun rights groups, including the Virginia Citizens Defense League and the Nation Rifle Association lobbied against the bills. Both groups said that Virginia's common law is already strong on this issue and therefore the legislation was not necessary because it would not bolster rights that are already established. 
The sponsors of the legislation thought it simply codified and strengthened the common law. However, both agreed to withdraw their respective bills to devote additional time to study the issue and resolve any unanswered questions about the consequences of the legislation. It will likely be debated again in the 2013 General Assembly session.