Perhaps the most widely misunderstood, misquoted, and misapplied doctrine within self-defense law is that of the “Stand Your Ground” statute. This is largely caused by the massive amount of biased, slanted, and out right lies told to us by anti-gun politicians, agenda driven prosecutors, and their accomplices within the mainstream media.
A significant amount of people, as well as the afore-mentioned politicians, prosecutors, and so-called reporters believe that it is a way of claiming self-defense and/or of legally committing murder under the guise of self-defense. Either way, both are wrong.
The concept of “Stand Your Ground” is simple to understand and apply. The ONLY thing that a “Stand Your Ground” statue does is remove your duty to retreat if you are legally allowed to be at the location.
It removes the self-defense element of avoidance. “That is, the legal duty of the defender to retreat from the attacker, before the defender may lawfully use defensive force, if a safe avenue of retreat is available. This is what “Stand-Your-Ground” does, and this is all it does: it waives the otherwise existing legal duty of a defender to retreat before using defensive force.” Attorney Andrew Branca.
“Stand Your Ground” does not eliminate the other four elements required for a claim of self-defense. Imminence, innocence, proportionality, and reasonableness are all still required for a successful claim of self-defense. If a prosecutor can convince a jury or judge that one or more of these elements were not met your claim of self-defense is gone regardless of your right to “Stand Your Ground”.
Another thing to remember is that most states are not “Hard Stand Your Ground” states. Meaning that the prosecutor is not even allowed to mention that you could safely retreat. Most are “Soft Stand Your Ground” states, which means that the prosecutor can still argue that while you did not have a specific duty to retreat, a reasonable person who was in the same set of circumstances would have retreated to safety before using whatever force was necessary to defend themselves. Do you want that argument made to a jury?Are you willing to trust your life to their judgement?
Having said that, it is my opinion that regardless of a “Stand Your Ground” statue, if you have a safe means of retreat you should take it. Once you decide to engage in a defensive use of force, deadly or non-deadly, your risk of being injured or killed and your risk of going to jail dramatically increases. The best fight to be in is always the one that did not happen.
Remember, it is your job to know that law and how it applies to your given set of circumstances. Trying to figure it out while you are in the conflict is too late. Find a reputable source within your state who is qualified to teach the legal aspects of self-defense and educate yourself before the fight. An excellent resource is the book “The Law of Self Defense, 3rd Edition” by Attorney Andrew Branca. He literally wrote the book on the laws surrounding self-defense and it covers all 50 states. I do not have any financial or other relationship with Attorney Branca, it is my opinion that he is one of the best resources regarding self-defense law out there today.
I understand that the legal matters that revolve around self-defense are a complex topic with many other factors involved. I hope that future articles will help to shed some light on this multifaceted issue. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice and the content is solely for educational and discussion purposes.
Active Response Training and Consulting, LLC
Law Of Self
Defense Instructor Program Graduate