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“Stand Your Ground” Laws – Issue Backgrounder

(See also Cheryl Cheatham’s post from earlier this week.)

Since the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin rose to public attention, that state’s law of self-defense has attracted much attention. Florida was one of the first states to enact a ‘Stand Your Ground’ statute. (One of the tangential controversies attached to the Florida law has to do with the role ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, played in drafting related legislation in nearly half the states.)

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, and the other laws that have followed it in enacting “Castle Doctrine”-like presumptions for individuals employing allegedly defensive force outside of their own homes, is at least several steps removed from the conception of self-defense as requiring an imminent threat of deadly force; reasonable belief in the necessity for force; and generally imposing a duty to retreat instead of use force, where possible. That view of self-defense came under attack first from a series of critiques related to battered women who attacked violent spouses when the threat being defended against may not have been imminent, and then by the current wave of statutory ‘Castle Doctrine’ or ‘Stand your Ground’ legislation.

While the new genre of “Castle Doctrine” legislation takes its name from the traditional common law doctrine excluding those attacked in their own homes from the duty to retreat, the tendency is to include one or both of the following additional characteristics: to remove the duty to retreat from other places, besides the home, that one can lawfully occupy; and/or to presume reasonable force-justifying fear of death, rather than requiring those who use deadly force in self-defense to provide proof of that reasonable fear. The Florida law also includes an immunity provision, that, in essence, frequently switches the burden to the police/prosecution to find evidence that a use of deadly force was not self-defense.

A post on The Atlantic Wire by ProPublica’s Cora Currier lists 23 states with “Stand Your Ground” laws and includes links to statutes from those states. The link selection is a little uneven, in that they are mostly links to sessional enactments, but some are Code links, etc.

Law Review Articles

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law, Specifically

“Castle Doctrine” in General

2 comments

  1. CWRU Law Professor Kevin McMunigal was one of the panelists on this morning’s Sound of Ideas program on WCPN, for a discussion of self-defense law in Ohio. The 48 minute program can be heard online here.

  2. Andy D. says:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/06/11/study-says-stand-your-ground-
    laws-increase-homicides/

    Study says stand-your-ground laws increase homicides.