(HorizonPost.com) – Hollywood has romanticized the lawlessness of the Wild West, an era where men were men and justice was dispensed from the barrel of a smoking gun. The notion that a person can defend their home with the use of force persists today in a legal principle called the “castle doctrine.” However, everything changed with the introduction of “stand your ground” laws.
Although Utah passed the first stand your ground law in 1994, legislative action in other states remained dormant until Florida enacted a new use of force statute in 2005 that granted its citizens the right to use or threaten to use deadly force outside the home.
That statute — Florida Statutes Title XLVI. Crimes § 776.031 — became the basis for model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Within a year, an additional 13 states passed similar laws based in whole or in part on ALEC’s model.
Additionally, eight states expanded existing castle doctrine laws to apply in the workplace or motor vehicles. As of January 2020, a total of 34 states have enacted a stand your ground law or expanded castle doctrine law.
What Exactly Does Stand Your Ground Mean?
Before the passage of these laws, a person had a “duty to retreat” when unlawfully attacked by another individual or when defending someone else. This doctrine restricted the use of deadly force if it was possible to withdraw and safely avoid the confrontation.
Additionally, most states also recognized a legal principle known as the “castle doctrine.” According to the castle doctrine, individuals have no duty to retreat if they were unlawfully attacked in their homes and able to use deadly force.
However, all that changed with the passage of Florida’s law in 2005, which dramatically expanded the principle.
Under Florida’s law, a person attacked in their “dwelling, residence, or vehicle” has “no duty to retreat,” “has the right to stand his or her ground,” and can use or threaten the use of deadly force to “prevent imminent death or great bodily harm… or a forcible felony.”
Other states modeled their stand your ground laws using Florida’s example or ALEC’s model legislation with a few minor changes. For instance, Mississippi used the word “felony’ instead of the narrower term of “force felony,” which applies to crimes like kidnapping and rape.
Some states, like Louisiana, restricted the use of stand your ground if the person using deadly force was attempting to acquire or distribute a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it.
Although the stand your ground doctrine remains controversial in some circles, many consider it as sacred as the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
Copyright 2020, HorizonPost.com