The stand your ground laws

  1. Bobbywhy

    Bobbywhy 1,864
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    The "stand your ground" laws

    Considering the current controversy in Florida over the death of a minor and what defense the killer may (or may not) use, here is some information from Wikipedia about the law:

    “A “stand-your-ground” law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first. In some cases, a person may use deadly force in public areas without a duty to retreat. Under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the "stand your ground" law would be a defense to criminal charges.”

    Here you can read the text of the Florida law:
  2. jcsd
  3. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    I like the quote from Judge Oliver Holmes on that page: "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife."

    In "duty to retreat" states, I feel that otherwise upstanding citizens will be thrown in jail for manslaughter (at least) based on a fight-or-flight response that the "victim" created. That is to say, I don't think people should be punished for their actions in crazy situations forced upon them.
  4. jim hardy

    jim hardy 5,460
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    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    Can one both support a law that says one cannot "stand his ground"

    and complain about "bullying" ?
  5. BobG

    BobG 2,351
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    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    The intent of the "stand your ground law" is for situations where the shooter has been threatened with something such as a club, a knife, etc - situations where the shooter might possibly have the option of running away instead of shooting the person threatening them. It more properly applies where having a gun clearly outweighs the weapon the shooter is being threatened with. Being that it's awful hard to evaluate the state of mind of the threatened after the fact, I'm okay with the law.

    I do think there's some danger in the law, however. How about a situation that occurred in my town a couple years ago. Do to some road rage incident, a car with three teenagers starts chasing the car they felt offended them. The driver of the chased car could have pulled into a well lit public place, such as a gas station, convenience store, etc. Instead, he drove into the neighborhood he had grown up in, went down a side street, and pulled over to see what the kids would do. When they pulled over behind him, he got out of his car, went over to their car, and shot all three of them, killing them. Did the carload of kids initiate the action? Yes. Did the carload of kids outnumber him? Yes. Did the carload of kids continue to pursue the incident by pulling over behind him? Yes. I still don't think that would qualify as "standing your ground".

    The "stand your ground law" would not be applicable to the Trayvon Martin shooting. Instead, this clause of the law would be applicable:

    Obviously, the Martin case is still under investigation, but my initial impression is that 2(a) would apply.

    Zimmerman at least initiated the situation. There's a gap where no outside observers know what happened. Then Zimmerman and Martin are wrestling on the ground and Zimmerman shoots Martin. Seeing as how they were already in close combat, I don't think Zimmerman had an opportunity to retreat, making the "stand your ground" argument moot.

    Or, the missing gap consists of Zimmerman physically threatening or attacking Martin, with clause 2(a) applying to Martin, instead, except he didn't have a gun while Zimmerman did.

    Either way, I don't see the "stand your ground law" as being applicable to the case.

    But, if it did, I wonder who it would apply to. Seeing as how Zimmerman is officially just some guy that was stalking Martin, if Martin stood his ground and started beating on Zimmerman, would he be justified?

    And, once Martin did start beating on Zimmerman, putting Zimmerman in physical danger, would Zimmerman then be justified in shooting Martin?
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
  6. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    I'd never heard of the stand-your-ground law until this awful tragedy came up. From a UK perspective it is odd simply because it is so different to any self-defence law here. Here the laws regarding self-defence and defence of others simply say that reasonable force can be used. What constitutes reasonable force is an often debated topic but very rarely is killing the attacker acceptable. There was a big case a few years ago where a farmer shot dead two (or three?) burglars, he was sent to prison because it came out at trial that when he came downstairs they tried to run away but he shot them anyway.

    It seems to me that if you allow guns inevitably you have to deal with the complication of people killing each other. Obviously it is entirely possible (and far to common) for people to kill people without guns but when ordinary citizens can walk around with a lethal and loaded weapon it is inevitable that at some point someone is going to be shot dead under questionable circumstances.

    This current situation isn't an example of standing ones ground at all, the guy followed the boy then got out of his car to confront him before shooting him dead. What does concern me though is what would have happened if in the same situation the boy had tried to attack or even shoot him i.e. man follows boy, man gets out of car and confronts boy, man pulls gun, boy feels threatened and so pulls gun, man shoots boy and claims self defence. Is that scenario defensible under this law? It would seem to be even though it was the man who instigated the whole scenario.
  7. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    The moment Zimmerman followed the young man instead of following the 911 operators instructions he became liable in my opinion. The police misused the interpretation of the law because Zimmerman didn't stand his ground he followed the kid. The guy in the car in the example above didn't "stand his ground". He got out of the car and took the ground to them. I think the man above is guilty of murder and Zimmerman is at least guilty of provoking the incident.

    Zimmerman had every right to call and report to the police.
    He became culpable once he began pursuing the young man.

    He is guilty of ignoring the advice of the authorities.
    He is guilty of attempting to detain someone without the authority to do so.
    He is guilty of assaulting someone with a lethal weapon.

    I don't think he had murder on his mind when he pursued the kid, but none of us can know. He did take the law into his own hands and that isn't excusable. I am all for the right to use lethal force when you are assaulted, but I also don't go cornering people and daring them to attack me either.
  8. jim hardy

    jim hardy 5,460
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    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    What is the meaning of "Gated Community" ?

    Some are posted private and employ armed guards.

    Zimmerman may have been within his rights to question the fellow, or he may be a "Condo Commando" mental case. I sure don't know. I'll wait and see.

    If he was acting on behalf of a community association it could open liability issues.
  9. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    The kid was a kid of a member of the gated community because he was staying there with his father.
  10. jim hardy

    jim hardy 5,460
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    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    If that is fact, one has to wonder then how the situation came to blows.

    Doesn't sound like two rational people interacting.
  11. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    Well, when big man starts following you in his car, then gets out and at least verbally accosts you (racial slurs by the killer can be heard on the 911 tapes) apparently the boy started running becuase you can hear the killer panting on his cell phone while he's chasing the boy. I would assume the boy would then have tried to save himself from the accoster.
  12. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    I've listened to some of the recordings, Zimmerman calls the police from his car saying that there is someone suspicious in his neighbourhood and that he can see him from his car. From the way he's speaking it seems like he has been following/watching the kid for a while. Then he says to the operator "He [the kid] is running" and gets out of his car to run after the kid. He eventually stops running to wait for the officers and somehow between that event and the police arriving he shot the kid. Phone calls from various neighbours have screaming in the background with a high pitched voice saying "help me" but it's unclear who was shouting that.

    Either way if you stalk someone in your car and then start running after them you are asking for trouble. If you carry a gun then clearly the idea of killing someone is in your mind, mix the two together and you have a bad situation. Even worse is that he is some sort of self appointed sheriff. I know it's private property but honestly how is a guy walking around his neighbourhood under the guise of protecting it with a gun ever going to be anything but a tiny step from vigilantism?
  13. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    Zimmerman also has a background of violence. I'm on my way out, so if anyone hasn't already read the news about it, I'll post a link.
  14. jtbell

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    In many/most US locales, city police or county sheriffs organize neighborhood watch associations. People in the neighborhood volunteer to serve and someone from the police or sheriff's department meets with them to give them guidelines/instructions. A distinctive sign goes up at entrances to the neighborhood, warning would-be miscreants that people are watching them.

    In this case, where the neighborhood is a gated community, the watch might have been organized by the homeowners' association (HOA), presumably with help from the Sanford police.

    All the neighborhood-watch pages that I've seen mention only things like calling 911 (the universal emergency phone number in the US) or the police when seeing something suspicious. This one even has as point #8, "Don't carry a weapon."

    Attached Files:

  15. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    We have neighbourhood watches in the UK as well but all they do is look out and call the police, they can't actually act. If they tried they might end up in trouble e.g. if one of them tried to physically restrain someone without very good reason they may be arrested for battery.

    However we also have community support officers who are essentially volunteer police officers who receive training, a uniform and police oversight before going out to walk their neighbourhood.

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  16. mheslep

    mheslep 3,404
    Gold Member

    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    The use of reasonable force is not the issue for stand-your-ground laws. Reasonable force can be used where these laws apply or where they don't. The relevant point is when, or under what conditions.

    Agreed, and of course they do so, both in criminal acts and in self-defense.

    But what? This begs the question set aside above.
  17. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    I've posted this once before on here... it should be read again, I guess.

  18. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    Dennis Baxley (the original sponsor/author of the law) and fmr-Gov Bush have noted that Zimmerman is not protected by the castle-doctrine/stand-your-ground law.

    Also, Zimmerman's lawyer has said that they're not using the 'Stand your ground' law for any sort of defense.

    Martin wasn't totally clean himself. More and more 'dirt' is coming out about this kid. He wasn't an honor roll superstar, but had been suspended several times from school (possession of pot and some sort of thieving tool). That doesn't make the shooting right, but it is a far flight from the image of a 'boy coming home from buying candy' like has been described. Unfortunately, I think this boy is a victim (of sorts) to his own self image. He imagines himself a thug, and he is going to be treated like one. One needs to understand how you are being percieved by other people. (still doesn't justify killing someone, but it definately does not help matters)

    (Personally, from what I've read, I think Zimmerman needs to have his [strike]day[/strike] months in court over this. This man shot a kid under questionable circumstances. The police, IMO, have been in the wrong to not arrest him from the start - let him use a self-protection or justifiable defense in front of a judge & jury. Unless the police have some unreleased silver-bullet to absolve Zimmerman, this man should only be out of jail on bail. )
  19. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    The lack of arrest is the frustrating part. It would be symbolic before anything else. He would be back out on bail the same day. They could arrest him for the murder of the kid, but you have to have a reason to charge him and that is the purpose of the investigation. To develop probable cause and such...

    We have jumped to conclusions based on what we have heard and are demanding something of the police they can not do just yet. The guy is guilty according to most people and the media. The police do their best to convict someone on evidence alone and ignore public opinion.

    I'll admit I have my own preconceptions based on what I have heard/been told second hand, but I (and everyone else) must admit that we don't know exactly what happened that night. We'll have to trust our justice department to figure that one out.
  20. BobG

    BobG 2,351
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    Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    Separating this from Zimmerman, specifically, the idea of being arrested symbolically on the assumption I could just bail myself out would bother me quite a bit.

    It would bother me a whole lot more if I couldn't raise the money to bail myself out. I'm going to have to come up with at least enough money to pay a bondsman to put up bail and the money I pay the bondsman will be non-refundable. Maybe I'm only paying him $1000 instead of the $10000 bail, but I'm out that $1000 forever.

    It would really bother me if I couldn't even come up with enough money to pay a bondsman and had to sit in jail until the trial finally took place! I'd lose my job, I couldn't pay my bills, I'd be evicted and my car would be repossessed, not to mention the problem of who would take care of my dogs?!

    Regardless of public opinion, the police department does have to have a reasonable chance of proving wrongdoing before they even arrest a suspect (legally, I think they can push this a bit and detain someone for a very short period, but have to have something they can charge him with or release him at the end of that period).

    Of course, in Zimmerman's case, he may as well be arrested. He doesn't dare move around in public, especially with people putting a bounty on his head. When publicity is this high, things just don't work very well. The general rules may not work any better than trying to make special rules to deal with this particular situation (but sticking to the general rules is still safer, legally).
  21. Re: The "stand your ground" laws

    In the US, legally, that farmers actions would not be acceptable either (crazy Texan juries may still choose not to convict though). In the US you are not supposed to use any greater level of force than that which was necessary, under the circumstances, to remove the threat to your person. The difference between US and UK law may lie in the fact that here it is considered allowable in certain circumstances that deadly force may be used if that was all that was available even if it was more than proportional to the threat it was in response to. For instance if you have a gun and someone is coming at you with a knife you may defend yourself with the gun despite the fact that it is more lethal than the knife. I believe this still requires a minimum reasonable concern of grievous bodily harm that could (not necessarily will) result in death.

    It would depend. Typically the person who drew a gun first would be at fault for creating the "shoot out" situation. On the other hand if the person who drew first had a reasonable and legal purpose in doing so then the person who responded by drawing another weapon would likely be considered at fault for having responded with a deadly threat to a legally defensible action. For instance if you are snockered at a bar, being a prat, and refusing to leave and the bouncer takes you by the arm to remove you by force (which they have the right to do here, not sure about over there) in response to which you deck him, then you are at fault despite the fact that he initiated the escalation in force. The question is whether or not the first to draw had cause to do so. The question is somewhat moot though when there are no witnesses to precisely what happened and one of the two persons is dead.
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