Many states have created stand your ground laws which enables a person to use deadly force to defend herself without any obligation to retreat. However, the person defending herself must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to prevent death or bodily harm. In 2005, Florida was the first state to pass the stand your ground law. After Florida, other states followed and created similar self-defense laws which allowed people to stand their ground and defend themselves, even if they were outside their homes, and even if it meant that they had to use deadly force.
Stand-your-ground laws generally do not apply when the person defending herself is in a place where she is not legally permitted or when she is engaged in illegal activities.
Self-defense laws vary from state to state. However, the laws generally fall into three different categories:
- Stand Your Ground: Under this law, the person defending themselves does not have a duty to retreat from the situation before using some type of deadly force to prevent harm. This law is not just limited to their own home or property and can be in public place as well.
- Castle Doctrine: Deadly force can only be used on their own property such as own home, yard, office. There is no duty to retreat.
- Duty to Retreat: This means that the person must retreat from the situation if they feel that they are being threatened by harm and the use of deadly force should be the last option.
In states with stand-your-ground laws, a person does not have a duty to retreat from an attacker. However, a growing minority of states have laws imposing a duty to retreat. In states with duty-to-retreat laws, a person cannot use deadly force to defend herself if she could have safely avoided the risk of death or serious bodily injury by retreating.
The requirement of the duty to retreat usually applies to people who carry weapons legally. It is important that the people who carry weapons to understand the law and know which states have the duty to retreat requirement in case they travel. These people should also be aware of the elements required to retreat safely in case they were to provide evidence at a later point explaining the steps they took to retreat if a situation had occurred.
Stand-your-ground laws evolved from the castle doctrine. According to the castle doctrine, a person’s home is entitled to certain protections and immunities. For instance, if an intruder breaks into a person’s abode, the person does not have to retreat before using deadly force. However, outside of the home, a person can only use deadly force after retreating as far as possible.
Many states have castle doctrine laws (also called "castle laws"). The difference between castle laws and stand-your-ground laws is that castle laws only eliminate the duty to retreat within one’s home or other property.
The following states have "stand-your-ground" laws specifying that there is no duty to retreat in a place where a person is lawfully present:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
If you have been accused of a crime and believe that you can assert a self-defense claim, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney. Your attorney will help you understand your constitutional rights and decide on a course of action.