Self-defense represents the most long-standing defense against fatal and nonfatal criminal charges.
This defense traditionally requires a duty to retreat before using force should one exist. In other words, to plead self-defense, you must show that you had no choice but to respond with deadly force.
However, 38 states developed some form of a “stand-your-ground” (SYG) law, under which the defendant has no duty to retreat.
A recent study bv the RAND Corporation concludes that these laws contribute to an overall increase in the rates of violence.
The Science of Gun Policy report reviewed 18 policies related to guns as enacted by various states. Independent studies have shown a direct relationship between SYG laws and increases in firearm homicides.
The other policies considered ranged from background checks and red flags to concealed-carry and child access prevention laws. and analyzed studies against scientific studies published from 1995.
Appeals court interprets ‘Stand Your Ground’ immunity broadly
The scope of SYG, e.g. where, against whom, and under what circumstances the defense applies, vary by state.
A recent decision by the Florida Second District Court of Appeals on a “Stand Your Ground” motion reveals how specific language within a SYG law contributes to the complexities of interpreting data. A man brought a motion to dismiss a charge of attempted manslaughter on “Stand Your Ground” immunity.
Though the man carried a concealed firearm without a license, he argued that when the firearm discharged he had not been the aggressor and that he had no ability to retreat. The State of Florida – argued that his admission about the concealed firearm and his failure to establish a basic claim for SYG immunity compelled dismissal of the appeal.
In overruling the trial court, the appeals court cited a specific provision of state law. The language of law permits SYG immunity if the person “is not engaged in criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.”
The lower court considered only the fact that the man was engaged in an unlawful act. The state has the burden to prove by a different standard that the man’s claim of self-defense fails.
Specific circumstances and states of mind can alter the decisions individuals make and actions they take. Florida’s Stand Your Ground immunity exemplifies just such a situation. Attorneys who understand the distinctions can offer guidance.