In the United States, stand-your-ground law states that an individual has no duty to retreat from any place they have lawful right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.
Forty-six U.S. states have adopted the castle doctrine, stating that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked. Twenty-two states have removed the duty to retreat requirement from other locations as well, "Stand Your Ground", "Line in the Sand" or "No Duty to Retreat" laws thus state that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he has a right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. Under such laws, there is no duty to retreat from anywhere the defender may legally be. Other restrictions may still exist; such as when in public, a person must be carrying firearms in a legal manner, whether concealed or openly.
Effect on crime rates
The law's effect on crime rates is disputed between supporters and critics of the law. Economist John Lott says that states adopting stand-your-ground/castle doctrine laws reduced murder rates by 9 percent and overall violent crime by 11 percent, and that occurs even after accounting for a range of other factors such as national crime trends, law enforcement variables (arrest, execution, and imprisonment rates), income and poverty measures, demographic changes, and the national average changes in crime rates from year-to-year and average differences across states.
A study by Texas A&M economics professors found that the adoption of stand-your-ground laws caused a statistically significant increase in the raw homicide rate, and had only a very small positive effect on deterrence of crime. The authors of the study were unable to determine what percentage of the increase was justifiable homicide, due to the reporting of homicide to the FBI often lacking notation whether the homicide was justifiable or not.
Another analysis of stand-your-ground laws by economists at Georgia State, using monthly data from the U.S. Vital Statistics, found a significant increase in homicide and injury of whites, especially white males. They also analyzed data from the Health Care Utilization Project, which revealed significantly increased rates of emergency room visits and hospital discharges related to gun injuries in states which enacted these laws.
In a 2007 National District Attorneys Association symposium, numerous concerns were voiced that the law could increase crime. This included criminals using the law as a defense for their crimes, more people carrying guns, and that people would not feel safe if they felt that anyone could use deadly force in a conflict. The report also noted that the misinterpretation of clues could result in use of deadly force when there was, in fact, no danger. The report specifically notes that racial and ethnic minorities could be at greater risk because of negative stereotypes.
Florida state representative Dennis Baxley, an author of the law, said that crime rates in Florida dropped significantly between 2005, when the law was passed, and 2012. However, crime rates had been declining nationally, including a 12% decrease in Florida, since at least 2000. Baxley said that he does not believe his law is the main reason for the drop in crime rates in Florida, but may be one of several reasons. Politifact Florida cast doubt on his belief with statistics showing that, from 2005-2007, the number of violent crimes actually rose and the once-declining crime rate stalled after the law took effect, before resuming previous rate of decline in subsequent years.
The following states have adopted stand-your-ground laws: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts (though the term is used very loosely there), Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina (Stand Your Ground law (N.C.G.S. 14 51.3) North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Other states (Iowa, Virginia, and Washington) have considered stand-your-ground laws of their own.
For example, Michigan's stand-your-ground law, MCL 780.972, provides that "[a]n individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time he or she uses deadly force may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be with no duty to retreat if . . . [t]he individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent" the imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault of himself or another individual.
Some of the states that have passed or are considering stand-your-ground laws already implement stand-your-ground principles in case law. Indiana and Georgia, among other states, passed stand-your-ground statutes due to possible concerns of existing case law being replaced by the "duty to retreat" in later court rulings. Other states, including California and Virginia, have implemented stand-your-ground judicially but have not adopted statutes. West Virginia had a long tradition of "stand your ground" in its case law before codifying it as a statute in 2008. These states did not have civil immunity for self-defense in their previous self-defense statutes.
Colorado's statutes reflect the common law's "no duty to retreat" rule. Colorado follows the doctrine of no-retreat, which permits non-aggressors who are otherwise entitled to use physical force in self-defense to do so without first retreating, or seeking safety by means of escape. Only initial aggressors must retreat before using force in self-defense. In other words, a person does not have to "retreat to the wall" before using deadly force to defend himself, unless the person was the "initial aggressor" in the encounter, even if he was in a place he had no right to be.
There is no explicit stand-your-ground or castle doctrine provision in the laws of the Czech Republic, however there is also no duty to retreat from an attack and that has effect similar to "stand your ground provision". In order for a defense to be judged as legitimate, it may not be manifestly disproportionate to the manner of the attack.
Stand-your-ground laws are frequently criticized and called "shoot first" laws by critics, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In Florida, self-defense claims tripled in the years following enactment. The law's critics argue that Florida's law makes it very difficult to prosecute cases against people who shoot others and then claim self-defense. The shooter can argue that he felt threatened, and in most cases, the only witness who could have argued otherwise is the deceased. However, this claim is inherent to all self-defense laws, not just stand-your-ground laws. Before passage of the law, Miami police chief John F. Timoney called the law unnecessary and dangerous in that "[w]hether it's trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn't want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you're encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn't be used."
In Florida, a task force examining the law heard testimony that the law is "confusing". Those testifying to the task force include Buddy Jacobs, a lawyer representing the Florida Prosecuting Attorney's Association. Jacobs recommended the law's repeal, feeling that modifying the law would not fix its problems. Florida governor Rick Scott plans his own investigation into the law. In a July 16, 2013, speech in the wake of the jury verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of charges stemming from the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Attorney General Eric Holder criticized stand-your-ground laws as "senselessly expand[ing] the concept of self-defense and sow[ing] dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods." The defendant, George Zimmerman, claims he was restrained at the time of the shooting, thus allowing no option for retreat and making 'stand your ground' irrelevant to the case.Florida's legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow people to show a gun or fire a warning shot during a confrontation without drawing a lengthy prison sentence.
When whites use the stand-your-ground defense against black attackers, some sources claim they are more successful than when African Americans use the defense against white attackers (however, see below). In stand-your-ground states, the use of the defense by whites in the shooting of a black person is found to be justifiable 17 percent of the time, while the defense when used by African-Americans in the shooting of a white person is successful 1 percent of the time. In non-stand-your-ground states, the shooting of a black person by a white is found justified approximately 9 percent of the time, while the shooting of a white person by a black is found justified approximately 1 percent of the time. Justifiable homicides have been found to have increased by 8 percent in states with stand-your-ground laws.
In 2012, in response to the Trayvon Martin case, the Tampa Bay Times compiled a report on the application of stand your ground, and also created a database of cases where defendants sought to invoke the law. However, their report, contrary to those cited above, found no difference in Florida cases in the way in which defendants claiming self-defense under the law are treated regardless of race, with white subjects being charged and convicted at the same rate as black subjects, and results of mixed-race cases were similar for both white victims of black attackers and black victims of white attackers. Shooters of black attackers overall were more successful at using the law than shooters of white attackers, regardless of the race of the victim claiming self-defense, but analysis showed that black attackers were also more likely to be armed and to be involved in committing a crime, such as burglary, when shot, which may explain this only difference found in relation to race.
- Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (2013). "States with 'stand your ground'" (JPG). Christian Science Monitor.
- Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 776
- More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws (University of Chicago Press, third edition, 2010).
- Cheng, Cheng; Hoekstra, Mark (2012). "Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Castle Doctrine". Retrieved September 19, 2012.
- Palazzolo, Joe (June 11, 2012). "Study Says 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Increase Homicides". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 19, 2012.
- McClellan, Chandler; Tekin, Erdal (June 2012). "Stand Your Ground Laws, Homicides, and Injuries". Bulletin on Aging and Health. NBER Working Paper No. 18187.
- Jansen, Steven; Nugent-Borakove, M. Elaine. "Expansions to the Castle Doctrine: Implications for Policy and Practice" (PDF). National District Attorneys Association. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
- "Half true: Crime rates in Florida have dropped since 'stand your ground,' says Dennis Baxley". Politifact. March 23, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- Ala. Code 13A-3-23(b): "A person who is justified under subsection (a) in using physical force, including deadly physical force, and who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and is in any place where he or she has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground."
- Eaton, Daysha (2013-06-20). "Parnell Signs Bills, Resolutions Supporting Gun Rights | Alaska Public Media". Alaskapublic.org. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- Martosko, David (April 1, 2012) "'Stand your ground' laws not just GOP policy, records show" The Daily Caller. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- Penal Code §§ 197, 198.5, Legislative Counsel, State of California, retrieved April 3, 2012
- "CALCRIM No. 505. Justifiable Homicide". CaliforniaJuryInstructions.Net. January 2006. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "Title XLVI Chapter 776: JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE". The 2013 Florida Statutes. The Florida Legislature. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
- "Iowa Code Section 704.1".
- "States That Have Stand Your Ground Laws". FindLaw. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- "General Laws: CHAPTER 278, Section 8A". Malegislature.gov. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
- Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground Law Mirrors Florida’s, Public Source, March 21, 2012
- Gov. Perry Signs Law Allowing Texans to Protect Themselves, Office of Governor Rick Perry Press Release, March 27, 2007
- 76-2-405 "Force in defense of habitation". Utah criminal Code.
- Walker signs 'castle doctrine' bill, other measures
- "HF2215 An Act relating to the justifiable use of reasonable force and providing a remedy.".
- "HB 48 Castle doctrine; self-defense and defense of others.". Virginia's Legislative Information System.
- "Fortifying The Right To Self-Defense". National rifle Association. February 26, 2006.
- "Castle Doctrine: Protecting Our Right to Self-Defense". National Rifle Association. (map showing states which have enacted a Castle Doctrine law)
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- "Virginia Concealed Carry Permit Information". USA Carry. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
- See State v. Cain, 20 W.Va. 679 (1882); State v. Laura, 93 W.Va. 250, 116 S.E. 251 (1923); State v. McMillion, 104 W.Va. 1, 138 S.E. 732 (1927); State v. Preece, 116 W.Va. 176, 179 S.E. 524 (1935); State v. Bowyer, 143 W.Va. 302, 101 S.E.2d 243 (1957); State v. Green, 157 W.Va. 1031, 206 S.E.2d 923 (1974); State v. Kirtley, 162 W.Va. 249, 252 S.E.2d 374 (1978); State v. W.J.B., 166 W.Va. 602, 276 S.E.2d 550 (1981)
- People v. Toler, 9 P.3d 341 (Colo. 2000)
- Cassels v. People, 92 P.3d 951 (Colo. 2004)
- Supreme Court of the Czech Republic (24 October 2001), Decision No. 5 Tz 189/2001 (in Czech), Brno
- Novotný, Oto (2004). Trestní právo hmotné. Praha: ASPI.
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- Holder, Eric. "Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Attorney General Eric Holder at the NAACP Annual Convention". Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- Jacob Sullum (2013-07-15). "Zimmerman's Prosecutors Did Not Think They Were Trying a 'Stand Your Ground' Case - Hit & Run". Reason.com. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
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- Jonsson, Patrik (August 6, 2013). "Racial bias and 'stand your ground' laws: what the data show". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
- Roman, John K. "Race, Justifiable Homocide, and Stand Your Ground Laws: Analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Report Data". http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412873-stand-your-ground.pdf. The Urban Institute. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- "Florida's stand your ground law". Tampa Bay Times. December 23, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
- Hundley, Kris; Martin, Susan Taylor; Humburg, Connie (June 1, 2012). "Florida 'stand your ground' law yields some shocking outcomes depending on how law is applied". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- Martin, Susan Taylor; Hundley, Kris; Humburg, Connie (June 2, 2012). "Race plays complex role in Florida's 'stand your ground' law". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
- Palmer, Brian (July 16, 2013). "Do Other Countries Have 'Stand Your Ground' Laws? Or do they require you to slowly back away?". Slate (The Slate Group). Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- Lithwick, Dahlia (February 25, 2014). "'Stand Your Ground' Nation: America used to value the concept of retreat. Now we just shoot.". Slate (The Slate Group). Retrieved May 26, 2014.