Stand Your Ground Law Analysis
The Stand Your Ground Law (SYG) had had bottomless roots in the American Society before it was brought into the limelight by Trayvon Martin v George Zimmerman case (Headley and Alkadry 1). The law is mostly relied upon by the defendants to justify their self-defense against the perceived threat or threat against their lives. The law permits an armed person who believes or perceive that they are in imminent threat or danger to apply deadly force and has a result it has been referred to as no Duty to Retreat Law. Legally, the Stand, Your Ground Law, is a revocation of the Duty to Retreat. However, the no Duty to Retreat is only justifiable if an individual has the right to be within the area of the danger or threat. Generally, the SYG law holds that under certain situations, persons can be forced to apply defensive mechanisms for themselves before attempting to retreat from threat or danger. The reason behind this law is to eradicate confusion on when individuals can defend themselves in the event of danger and get rid of prosecution of individuals who legitimately used self-defense before any attempt to retreat from the danger or threat. Brief History
The SYG law history finds its origin in the English Law Principles. In the 17th century, English common law set out defense habitation and self-defense laws which would later form the American Castle of Doctrine Law (Headley and Alkadry 1). It was the Castle Doctrine Law which was transferred to America. The Common Law outlined that an individual had an obligation to retreat when threatened or attacked by another. In the event where the retreat was no longer applicable, the law advocated for the reciprocation of force being used towards the person in danger. Therefore, the initial self-defense law was justified by the requirement and necessity, depicting that retreat was not an alternative and it was reasonable to use force to counter a threat (Headley and Alkadry 1). However, the law put it clear that an individual was supposed to apply appropriate force as per the current life-threatening circumstance. On the same note, homicide was treated as a self-defense act only if the accused could prove that he was in imminent danger and he was preventing the occurrence of severe bodily harm or death (Headley and Alkadry 1).
Despite that the Common Law used the application of appropriate force in the event of self-defense, it provided for exceptions in defense of habituation where it replaced the necessary self-defense force with the deadly force, especially if was meant of mitigating the violent felony. It was through this English Common Law where the American Castle Doctrine Law as born. The Castle Doctrine Law just like the English Common Law on the defense of habituation recognized the sanctity of home whereby the original self-defense law no longer protected the intruders. Alternatively, the American Castle Doctrine provided for exceptions for self-defense force proportionality and necessity, meaning that one was allowed to use deadly force in his or her home despite the nature of the imminent danger or force.
In the 19th century, the United States started to differ with the common law, especially the applicability its applicability in life-threatening instances in public areas. This change from common law practices was followed by conflict judicial decisions. For example, in Beard v U.S. case the court held that the accused was legally right to use SYG laws and protect his or her life from danger by using what means deemed necessary to protect his life from imminent danger. Comparably, in Allen v. U. S case, the court held that individuals were supposed to retreat while in the public areas to prevent harm or save another person’s life. The confusion arising from the two cases was settled in Brown v. U.S case where non-retreat privilege was extended beyond individual’s place of habituation to any plausible circumstance that posed a threat to the life of the defendant (Headley and Alkadry 1). Brown v. U.S ruling allowed individuals to stand their ground with the application of deadly force against any attack that threatened their lives at the same time being within the legal self-defense parameters. However, despite the Supreme Court recognizing the applicability of SYG as legally acceptable self-defense act, different states and jurisdictions have had different perceptions of its applicability. For example, Florida State changed its laws and added two presumptions whereby the usage of this law provided that home intruders must be proven to cause severe bodily harm or death and secondly, the intruder must have shown felonious and violent intent upon invasion.
Recent Stories/News surrounding SYG Laws
Trayvon Martin v. George Zimmerman case in Florida is one of the recent news surrounding SYG laws. In fact, it has been termed as the case that has triggered and captured the attention of public about SYG laws. Trayvon Martin a shot death by George Zimmerman who held that he did it out of self-defense. In 2013, Zimmerman was found innocent. Since then there have been appeals to have the Stand Your Ground Law is repealed. The most recent case was that of Shevrin Jones, a South Florida Representative who in January 2018 introduced a bill to repeal this law (Iannelli). Those who oppose SYG law argue that it gives right for the people to kill others and invoke its legal self-defense provision. Likewise, it has been argued that individuals can open fire freely if they fear for their safety as well as those of others. It also believed that SYG laws had been the cause of racial disparities in the criminal justice system sparking the emergence of civil rights movement such as Black Lives Matter.
SYG Law Pros and Cons
The proponents of SYG law argue that it permits the innocent individuals to protect themselves against the imminent dangers or attacks that can cause their deaths or serious bodily harm (Headley and Alkadry 2). Therefore, it is apparent that the law provides for the safety mechanisms which are meant to protect innocent lives from potential threats and dangers. The opponents report that SYG law has been used as a permission to kill and can also escalate further violence while the person in danger could have just safely walked away. The SYG law dissents go further by maintaining that innocent lives were adequately protected even before the enactment of SYG laws (Headley and Alkadry 2). It is a fact that initially, the self-defense laws allowed individuals to use excessive force against the attack if they felt there was imminent or a reasonable threat. Finally, these laws have not helped to reduce crime rates, but instead, they have been found to increase homicide rates and racial disparities, especially in the criminal justice system (American Bar Association 2).
SYG Applicable Laws and Regulations
The SYG laws maintain that it is not illegal to use reasonable deadly force in response to the imminent danger or threat. The response to the threat must be necessary and the force applied must be proportionate to the potential danger. Majority of the American states use reasonable standards to the self-defense acts. Therefore, one must not reasonably assess the proportionality, necessity, and imminence of the threat for the SYG law to apply. Generally, the law does not give a room for the Duty to Retreat. Instead, it advocates for the individuals to stand their grounds and use force against the force that they perceive to have potential danger (American Bar Association 1). However, there have been debates, and empirical studies have recommended that the states using SYG laws should consider repealing them and warning the states where these laws are not practiced on their adverse effects (American Bar Association 2).
American Bar Association. National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws. Chicago: American Bar Association, 2015. Document. <https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/diversity/SYG_Report_Book.pdf>.
Headley, Andrea, and Mohamad G. Alkadry. “The Fight or Flight Response: A Look at Stand Your Ground.” Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs 5.1 (2016): 1-13. Document. <https://digitalscholarship.tsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1035&context=rbjpa>.
Iannelli, Jerry. South Florida Rep Files Bill to Repeal State’s “Stand Your Ground” Law. 16 January 2018. Website. 12 May 2018. <http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/florida-stand-your-ground-law-repeal-bill-filed-by-hollywood-florida-representative-shevrin-jone-9998333>.