No person should be forced to let themselves be victimized. Our founding fathers understood that and enshrined it via our Second Amendment. While no one wants to have to use deadly force in self-defense, it is sometimes inevitable. For this reason, we have defense laws like the Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground. But what is the Stand-Your-Ground Law, and does your state have it?
Stand-Your-Ground Law Provides Legal Defense of Your Self-Defense
In 2005 Florida enacted the first stand-your-ground law to the ire of gun control advocates and mainstream media. To hear them tell it, so-called “shoot first laws” are nothing more than a license for gun-toting radicals to run around killing with impunity. Of course, we all know this is nonsense, and no amount of misrepresenting gun violence statistics will make it true.
The reality is, that stand your ground is simply an avenue to claim self-defense for people who are compelled to use deadly force. Specifically as a means to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm while in the public space. Likewise, the law allows for defense against serious crimes like rape, kidnapping, and in some states, robbery, burglary, or arson.
According to GunLaws101, “Stand-Your-Ground Laws are often expansions of the Castle Laws. They address the use of force outside of one’s home, place of work, or vehicle. They cover most of the same issues as the castle laws (the places where this law applies, the requirements [for] use of deadly force, if there is a duty to retreat, the amount of force that may be used in defending [oneself] or others) the main difference is the location.”
In essence, the stand-your-ground defense provides you protection under the law if you have to defend yourself against an attack or forcible felony. Likewise, it removes the obligation to retreat if you have a legal right to be where you are. This is in contrast to states without stand-your-ground laws, which require you to retreat if you can safely do so.
However, even those states allow you to defend yourself if you cannot safely retreat. For example, in the event of unlawful and forcible entry of an occupied vehicle by a carjacker.
Is Your State a Stand Your Ground State?
At the time of this writing, WikiPedia lists 38 stand-your-ground states. At least eleven of these states use specific “may stand his or her ground” language.
30 States with statutes providing “that there is no duty to retreat from an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present” are:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Pennsylvania (limits the no-duty-to-retreat principle to situations where the defender is resisting attack with a deadly weapon)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
According to WikiPedia, Puerto Rico is also a stand your ground state.
The remaining eight states have case law/precedent or jury instructions so providing and are listed as:
- New Mexico
Also within this category is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Should You Always Stand Your Ground?
The reality is that it might not always be in your best interests to stand your ground. As Sun Tzu once said, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
In other words, you don’t have to fight every fight. Just because you’re in a stand-your-ground state doesn’t mean you can’t retreat if you want to. It just means that you don’t have to.
Keep in mind, stand your ground is just a legal defense, it isn’t a get-out-of jail-free card. If you use deadly force to defend yourself, there will be an investigation, and you’ll have to defend yourself again. Only this time in court, and potentially against a not-so-gun-friendly DA, prosecutor, judge, and jury. Not to mention the potential for a civil suit following the trial, whether you are found innocent or not.
Obviously, if you are in imminent danger and self-defense is your only means of escape/survival, then defend yourself. But if there is time and distance, even if you have a legal right to be where you are, just get out of there. It might not be worth the aftermath.
Please note: This is not to be considered legal advice and is meant for general entertainment purposes only. All states have different variations of the laws mentioned here and it is up to you to research the laws in your state. For any actual legal advice, please make sure to seek the counsel of a certified attorney.