Lawyers Against Stand-Your-Ground
You might have heard about Stand Your Ground laws after the Martin-Zimmerman shooting in Florida. Stand Your Ground replaced the legal Duty to Retreat. With Stand Your Ground you had the option of staying in place in the face of an aggressor. The original intent of the Duty to Retreat may have been desirable. You were required to take a step back if you could. That proves who started the conflict since it is hard to take the first swing if you are both stepping back. It avoided the issue of who swung first or who ran into whom. The Duty to Retreat also had some unintended consequences.
A young woman could have run from her abusive boyfriend. She finally faced him in the garage after he chased her around the car several times. She wanted to drive away, but also wanted to keep the car between her and her attacker. She admitted during prosecution that there was an open door for her to escape. She could have run if she were willing to turn her back on her attacker. She was convicted of brandishing a deadly weapon.
An elderly woman could have retreated, but would have to abandon her defenseless husband. She stood her ground and went to trial. Homeowners insurance does not cover deliberate acts even if they are justified.
A young father fought off a carjacker to defend his young children. He fired a warning shot into the ground and the thug fled. Under questioning, the father admitted the carjacker had not mentioned taking the children, and that the threat to his childrens’ safety was only speculation on his part. The father was convicted for use of deadly force because he could have retreated and so ended the confrontation.
Why did these people stay and fight when they could run? I think the answer is clear. I was taught that it is never worth shooting for unless it is worth dying for. That means sometimes you might have to use your gun even if it is against the law to do so. It stinks, but that is our legal system as it stands.
There is another side to the political question of self-defense and the use of deadly force. Most Stand Your Ground laws include a civil prohibition. The fact that you were defending yourself from aggression in a place you were lawfully allowed to be is enough to dismiss a civil suit from the plaintiff (read thug) or his family. Most of the attacks on Stand Your Ground laws are from groups supported by state trial lawyers.
Let us fix the self-defense laws so innocents are not sent to trial for defending themselves. They should not be a victim twice. They should neither be charged by the DA nor sued by the criminal’s attorney in subsequent civil suits.
Photograph by Oleg Volk
I wrote this because legal scholars who could have written it better evidently had other things to do. Please blame them.