What Iowa law says about self defense - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

What Iowa law says about self defense

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Dakota  Nelson, arrested for allegedly firing a gun at a suspected burglar's car. Dakota Nelson, arrested for allegedly firing a gun at a suspected burglar's car.
CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

An Iowan is facing charges after trying to stop a burglar who broke into his home.

21-year-old Dakota Nelson was arrested when police say he chased down a suspected burglar's car firing a gun at it.

It happened Sunday morning in Cedar Rapids.

Major John Godar with the Linn County Sheriff's Office tells us Iowa does not have a written castle doctrine or stand your ground law but we do have similar laws of our own.

In Iowa, if you are in your home or at work and someone is attacking you, you do not have to retreat to use deadly force, but you do have to feel like your life is being threatened.

On the contrary, if you are being attacked in public, it is expected you try to take an alternative course of action.

 First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, told us examples for an alternative course of action could be fleeing or calling for help.

While Nelson denied firing a gun Sunday morning, police say they have surveillance video of him doing just that, while chasing the suspected burglar's car down the street.

Thankfully, no one was injured.

Police say after the incident Nelson was arrested for Reckless Use of a Firearm.

While it may seem odd Nelson was arrested after his own home was broken into, Chapter 704 in Iowa Law defines self defense.

The chapter can be found here:https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/704.pdf

"If you're at risk, defend yourself but you need to really be able to articulate why you did what you did and know at the time that you're doing to right thing," Godar told us.

It comes down to being reasonable.

"Would a reasonable person if they were in your situation think that their life was in danger in those circumstances and so when you talk about someone that, the burglaries over and their running away, would a reasonable person think that their life was in danger at that point? And it is reasonable to use deadly force at that point," said Godar.

It is something that will be decided in court for Dakota Nelson.

His initial court appearance will be on March 24th.

The Linn County Sheriff's Office tells us Nelson does not have a permit to carry, but that is okay if you are on your own property.

Police say they were not able to share the surveillance video from the scene because it is part of the investigation.

The burglary is also under investigation.

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