Navigating Stand Your Ground Law
“Stand your ground” laws gained notoriety in 2012 with the shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, claimed self-defense in shooting Martin. But what exactly does the defense mean? Florida Statutes Chapter 776.012 defines “standing your ground” as “use or threatened use of force in defense of person.”
What Does Stand Your Ground Mean?
A normal citizen, not doing anything illegal, is not required to retreat when threatened with deadly force, even when outside the citizen’s own home.
Normally, under the more restrictive “castle doctrine,” a citizen was only justified in using deadly force when defending against a deadly threat inside his or her home. When outside of one’s home, a person is required to at least consider retreat (and rule it out) before fighting back with deadly force.
With the stand-your-ground law, a person can exercise the castle doctrine anywhere the person is standing. In other words, deadly force is always an option in such a situation, because there is no duty to retreat.
Origins of “Stand Your Ground” Laws
According to David Ovalle of the Miami Herald, the National Rifle Association pushed a stand-your-ground law in 2005. It easily passed the state legislature and was signed by then-governor Jeb Bush. However, American laws have mentioned these principles as early as 1876 in Erwin vs. State (Ohio).
The Ohio court decision held that “stand your ground” laws save lives by allowing a victim to turn the tables on an attacker. Later, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes rejected the retreat rule in Brown v. U.S. (1921). He held that the retreat rule unjustly burdens the defendant to retreat when he or she already faces a life or death struggle, valuing the victim’s life less than that of the attacker.
Problems Arising with Stand Your Ground Laws
A potential problem with this law, according to opponents, is that it can justify more shootings. Taken on the mere words of the shooter, as long as the shooter is not a criminal, it is difficult to identify whether the action taken was valid. Florida has seen a significant increase in deadly shootings and accidents that have a arisen because of the emboldening nature of stand your ground laws. While these laws do provide people with the legal ability to defend themselves in dangerous situations, they also leave the door open for many dangerous confrontations that leave many people dead every year.
A study found that stand-your-ground laws in Florida were associated with a 31.6% increase in firearm-related homicides. Florida’s justifiable homicides nearly tripled as of 2012 since the 2005 passage of the law. This massive increase can hardly be ignored and a good portion of stand your ground instances consist of questionable situations that require significant investigation like the Zimmerman-Trayvon
Is Trayvon Martin’s Death Really About Stand Your Ground?
In the death of Trayvon Martin, the town police chief did not charge Zimmerman with any crime because he found no grounds to disprove Zimmerman’s version of events. The Florida governor had to appoint a special prosecutor to bring a second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman, a charge of which Zimmerman was later acquitted. However, Zimmerman did not ask for a pre-trial “stand-your-ground” hearing to determine if he should be charged or not. Indeed, the defense he presented did not raise stand-your-ground laws at all. It was a straight-forward self-defense claim.
Legislators must ponder the question of whether stand-your-ground laws contributed to Zimmerman’s boldness in confronting Martin, even when the 911 dispatcher specifically warned him not to get out of the car and confront Martin. What share of the blame should Zimmerman bear for the confrontation?
Wrongful Death and Injury From Questionable Stand Your Ground Instances
While stand your ground laws may allow people to defend their homes and lives when they are threatened, they can also lead to some confusion when invoked in questionable instances. Sometimes a person may claim stand your ground when they themselves were not 100% in the right which can lead to severe injury and death of innocent people. There is no doubt that the laws do embolden some to take matters into their own hands but this is not always a good thing. These laws have the potential to be exploited by those who wish to remain free from being held accountable for using deadly force in a situation where it was not called for.
Much like with the Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin controversy, someone can be killed while the other party claims to have been acting in defense towards a threat and it is one person’s word of how events that paint the picture. This doesn’t always have to be the case. An experienced lawyer can assist in helping to navigate stand your ground law and help ensure that a questionable invocation of these laws as a defense can be thoroughly contested.
Contact an Attorney When Your Rights are Threatened
If your rights have been threatened in questionable “stand-your-ground” instances, contact a lawyer to ensure you are fairly represented. At the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we offer free consultations to injured or targeted victims. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we only collect fees if we successfully secure a settlement or damages award. You only stand to benefit when you speak to one of the attorneys of Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA about what we can do for you and your stand your ground law related case. Our attorneys can provide you with legal insight earned through years of experience and successful cases so that your case can stand the best chance possible at recovering compensation that can cover the damages that you unjustly suffered.
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