Friday, March 16, 2012

"Stand Your Ground" Laws

The link below is to a tragic situation in Florida involving Florida's stand your ground laws.  I'm not going to get deeply into the facts on this one other than to point out that the shooting happened outside in the parking lot of a gated community.  The local law enforcement decided not to arrest the shooter or press charges due to the stand your ground self-defense statute.  The state authorities are also investigating and I suspect that the federal government will definitely get involved if Florida declines to prosecute the case.  The story is linked below.

At common law self-defense in both civil and criminal cases required retreat before using deadly force unless a person asserting self-defense is in their own home.  The modern trend is for states to modify this rule by statute.  Florida is one state that has significantly modified the rule by statute.  The stand your ground laws do away with the duty to retreat in many settings outside of the home. 

The point of the duty to retreat is obviously to see if a situation can be resolved without resorting to deadly force.  Eliminating the duty to retreat tends to escalate situations.  People have a tendency to resort to the method of self-defense that is safest for themselves even if it is wholly disproportionate to the situation.  This is particularly true as a person feeling threatened may not accurately assess the actual level of danger presented by a situation and is likely to over-react especially if they have a gun.  Whereas over-reaction with less than deadly force will likely end without anyone getting killed, over-reaction with deadly force will problem end with a death. 

There are most likely other factors at play in the case discussed in the article.  The most obvious one, and the one that might lead to federal charges, is race.  However, I only wanted to write about the stand your ground statutes in general so I'm not going to get into that today.

s/ Kurt Koehler
308 1/2 S. State Street Suite 36
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48198
(Washtenaw County)

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