What ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws Actually Mean
‘Stand Your Ground’ is a law in many states of the United States of America. It allows for a self-defense argument at trial (and sometimes for immunity from prosecution), in cases where the defendant has used force to protect himself/herself against real or perceived threats.
The underlying principle is the Castle Doctrine, according to which a person is not required to retreat within one’s own home or property while defending against trespassers who threaten to inflict bodily harm. In case of threats outside the home, the defendant is often required to retreat as far as possible before using force for self-defense.
In some states, however, the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is also applicable to places outside the home and property, and extends to the defendant’s vehicle(s), workplace, and even places where the defendant is legally entitled to be.
Twenty-one states have enacted ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws –
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
In the State of Colorado, the ‘Make My Day’ law is in practice. It allows gun owners to shoot (and kill) any person who demonstrates an intent to commit a crime. This use of gun in self-defense, however, is restricted to the defendant’s home and ends at the door.
In both Idaho and Washington, ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is not officially part of the constitution but court decisions and judgment rulings have allowed it as a self-defense argument.
‘Stand Your Ground’ is one of the most controversial laws in the US. Gun control advocates suggest that the law is the equivalent of “shoot first, ask questions later”. Neither is the law uniform in its scope nor interpretation across the states. Unjustified uses of the law include many examples of provoking the aggressor, fights in public spaces, and even in gang fights.
In many cases, unarmed trespassers have been shot and the defendants claimed self-defense and ‘Stand Your Ground’. The interpretation of the law is often contradictory and confusing leading to legal complications.