Although the acquittal of George Zimmerman might have happened several years ago, it spurred a renewed public interest into Florida’s “stand your ground” statute. Despite the fact that Zimmerman’s attorneys did not use a “stand your ground” defense, the case opened the door for an intense debate regarding these laws, especially in Florida. Here are five facts surrounding “stand your ground.”
#1 Most States Have a “Stand Your Ground” Law
Thirty-three states have enacted laws that align with what is known as “castle doctrine.” These laws protect homeowners who use — possibly deadly — force to protect their homes. Instead of retreating in the face of an imminent threat, individuals have a right to “stand their ground” and defend their property using whatever means necessary. According to Florida’s law, those who have a reasonable fear of peril or death at the hands of an intruder can use deadly force against that intruder. However, there are some stipulations.
#2 There Are More Than 200 “Stand Your Ground” Cases in Florida
The Tampa Bay Times consolidated data from more than 200 Florida cases to create an interactive article detailing ages, gender and background of the victims and the accused. The Times touts the list, though not exhaustive, as the “most comprehensive in the state” and the best on record for information regarding “stand your ground” deaths.
#3 It Is Not a New Law
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” or “Justifiable Use of Force” statute became a law 10 years ago. In 2005, it passed unanimously in the Florida Senate and 94-20 in the House, after which the then-Governor Jeb Bush signed it into law. Since then, the number of cases of justifiable homicide has tripled, but violent crime has decreased.
#4 No State Has Successfully Repealed It
Several states have filed to repeal their respective “stand your ground” laws, and some have come close to getting it repealed. Yet, to date, all “stand your ground” laws remain in effect. Some states, including Florida, even plan to expand upon it.
#5 It Does Not Justify Unreasonable Force
States without “stand your ground” have “duty to retreat,” or that occupants must retreat from the threat as much as possible before responding in self-defense. In Florida, “stand your ground” means that individuals do not have to retreat when faced with a violent felony. Contrary to what many perceive, it does not mean that homeowners can shoot strangers with impunity.
Owners and lawful custodians of personal property may use disabling but not deadly force to defend it from damage or theft. If, however, the threat to the property involves a violent felony, armed robbery as an example, the owner or custodian would be justified in a resort to deadly force to resist the threat. The statute does not immunize from prosecution or suit anyone who knowingly uses force unlawfully. However, the law presumes reasonable fear, meaning that, during a home invasion, a homeowner does not have to wait to see if the perpetrator is armed before using deadly force.
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