Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Semayne's Case Definition:

A 1604 English case that established the right of a home-owner to defend his premises against intrusion ("every man's house is his castle") yields to those seeking to enter with lawful authority such as to make an arrest.

Related Terms: Domus Sua Cuique Est Tutissimum Refugium, Deadly Force, Stand Your Ground

The case, cited as Semayne's Case 77 E.R. 194 included these words:

"That the house of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence, as for his repose.

"(But) in all cases when the King is party, the Sheriff (if the doors be not open) may break the party's house, either to arrest him, or to do other execution of the K.'s process, if otherwise he cannot enter.  But before he breaks it, he ought to signify the cause of his coming, and to make request to open doors."

In Canada, the rule was examined in Eccles v. Bourque, [1975] 2 SCR 739, and R v Landry [1986] 1 SCR 145, the latter stating:

"There are occasions when the interest of a private individual in the security of his house must yield to the public interest, when the public at large has an interest in the process to be executed.  The criminal is not immune from arrest in his own home nor in the home of one of his friends.  So it is that in Semayne's Case a limitation was put on the "castle" concept...."

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