While going through the course of everyday life, most Americans do not actively think about the fact that they could become the victim of a violent crime. Unfortunately, crimes happens all of the time and individuals need to be prepared to defend themselves and their families. The Stand Your Ground Law is a law that allows an individual to defend and protect him or herself from threat or perceived threat through any means necessary, including lethal force. Under this law, individuals have no duty to retreat when threatened or attacked.
The Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine is related to the Stand Your Ground Law, and has been adopted in 45 states. This doctrine states that when a person is inside his or her residence he or she has the right to defend against an intruder through any means needed, including deadly force. Under the Castle Doctrine, a person receives protections and immunities from charges in the event that he or she hurts or kills someone in his or her home in an act of self-defense or due to the perception of imminent threat or danger.
Most states have several conditions that must be met in order for the Castle Doctrine to apply. These include:
- An intruder must forcibly enter, or be in the process of entering, a residence.
- The intruder must be acting in an unlawful manner.
- The person inside the house must have reason to believe that the intruder intends to use force to inflict bodily harm or kill the occupant of the home.
- The person within the home must not provoke or instigate the intrusion or the use of force by the intruder.
In addition to protecting a person from criminal charges when he or she injures or kills an intruder, the Castle Doctrine also protects the person from any civil lawsuits. In states that have adopted the Castle Doctrine, intruders are not allowed to sue for damages to pay for medical bills, and the family of an intruder can’t sue for wrongful death.
Differences Between the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Law
The main difference between the Castle Doctrine and the Stand Your Ground Law is the fact that the Castle Doctrine only applies to residences, while the Stand Your Ground Law applies to any place that a person has the lawful right to be. Thus, in states with the Stand Your Ground Laws, a person can use any means necessary, including deadly force, in self defense anywhere and at any time if he or she feels an imminent threat of being seriously harmed or killed. Currently, 30 states in the U.S. have adopted the Stand Your Ground Law.
Controversy Around the Stand Your Ground Law
The Stand Your Ground Law has been surrounded by controversy since it was first introduced in Florida in 2005. Proponents of the law state that innocent people deserve the right to protect themselves from being harmed or killed without the fear of criminal charges. Those against the law state that it gives too much power to an individual and may promote a vigilante mentality and attribute to deaths in situations where the use of deadly force is not necessary.
The Stand Your Ground Law received national attention in 2012 when Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, an armed neighborhood watch patrolman. George Zimmerman stated that he felt threatened and feared for his life and that the shooting was in self-defense. It was later discovered that there may have been a scuffle between Martin and Zimmerman, but the teenager was unarmed.
Due to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, Zimmerman was not immediately arrested for the shooting. Due to public outcry, Zimmerman was eventually charged with murder but a jury acquitted him of all charges.
While high-profile cases like the shooting of Trayvon Martin have garnered a lot of attention, states that currently have the Stand Your Ground Law did not repeal the law, and residents in those states still have the right to use force in self-defense and have no duty to retreat if they feel that they may be harmed or killed by another person.