Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Stand Your Ground Definition:

A popularized name for the use of deadly force to repel an attack, and subsequent criminal and civil immunity.

Related Terms: Deadly Force, Semayne's Case, Se Defendendo

The doctrine of stand your ground is particular to some of the states of the United States of America. It is a reflection of the belief that citizens have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes and to expel trespassers with deadly force.

In essence, the stand your ground defence allows an occupant of a dwelling to use any degree of physical force against an intruder, including deadly force, force known by the defender to possibly if not probably kill the intruder, sich as the use of as firearm

The stand your ground law, where it applies, must make for nervous neighbors, not to mention lost tourists, itinerant sales-persons or canvassers, especially in the United States of America which has, as a basic constitutional right (the Second Amendment), this:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Stand Your Ground (© shotsstudio - Fotolia.com)More importantly, it takes away from the citizen living in a modern democracy, the obligation to exercise some measure of proportionality in regards to the use of force. Consider also these chilling words of jurist and professor of law Pearl Goodman (Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida), that stand your ground immunity applies:

"... even if other means of self-protection are available, and. . . even if the attacker is unarmed."

As to the option of retreat which, would not be "John Wayne-like" or what the Marines would do. sometimes expressed in law as the true man ideal:

"... the true man ideal: a true man need not retreat when attacked by another."

The history of stand your ground statutes starts with the ancient Latin maxims: domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium (every man's house is his refuge) and se defendo (self-defence).

In 1604, Edward Coke's used the following immortal and oft-cited words in Seymane's Case, and relying in part on domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium:

"The house of everyone is his castle, and if thieves come to a man’s house to rob or murder, and the owner or his servants kill any of the thieves in defence of himself and his house, it is no felony and he shall lose nothing."

This became, with some adjustments, the castle doctrine became the stand your ground doctrine. As law professor Finegan explains in her 2010 article in the University of the Massachsetts Law Review:

"(T)he Castle Doctrine ...under this doctrine, an individual may defend himself within his own home without a duty to retreat. Over time, this doctrine has been expanded by many states to include the curtilage of a home.

"Other states have expanded the castle doctrine to include vehicles. Thus, the expansion of this doctrine has increasingly allowed individuals to be able to exercise deadly force without first retreating when attacked outside of their home; specifically, an individual can use deadly force when attacked in the area surrounding his home or in his car.

"The more recent trend has been to expand the castle doctrine much further-nearly doing away with the duty to retreat altogether. The recent trend abandons the duty to retreat in public places where the individual has a right to be. This expansion invokes some of the true man arguments of the latter part of the nineteenth century and grounds itself in the principle that an individual need not avoid a confrontation with an unprovoked attacker so long as that individual is rightfully in a public place. Statutes reflecting this expansion of the castle doctrine are often referred to as stand your ground laws.

This sometimes controversial law is enacted in some American states such as Florida and Colorado.

The 2005 statute of the state of Florida, 776.013(1) codifies that jurisdiction's stand your ground law as follows:

"A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

"(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcefully entered, a dwelling, a residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person's will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and

"(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred."

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