On February 26, 2012 Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a community watch captain in Sanford, Florida. This tragic event has sparked outrage and many are now calling for the Department of Justice to take a look into Stand Your Ground laws.

George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin was not arrested for the killing and he has not been charged with any crime in connection to the tragedy. Zimmerman apparently told police he was protecting himself from Martin and acted in self-defense.

Craig Sonner, the attorney for Zimmerman, has not committed to what type of defense his client would invoke other than saying self-defense. However, Florida’s stand your ground law, “which provides significant leeway for people to use deadly force if they feel their lives are in danger” has become a potential option.

What is Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law?

Florida’s stand your ground law is a self-defense law allowing a person to use deadly force if he or she believes it is necessary to do to in order to protect themselves. This law protects people in their homes as well as in their vehicles and public places. Under this Florida law, police are unable to arrest a suspect who claims self-defense.

The criticism behind this type of law is that it advocates a shoot first, think after approach.

Almost Half of the States Have Similar Stand Your Ground Laws

There are 23 other states that have similar laws to that of Florida’s. The intention behind these laws is to allow a person, such as a battered spouse, to defend themselves without having to leave their home. In essence, it is to have no duty to retreat from harm before being able to defend oneself.

Origin of Stand Your Ground Laws

Stand your ground laws are derived from the Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to protect themself inside their own home. If you are not inside your home, the theory was that you had the duty to retreat, or leave the dangerous situation if possible. Therefore, if you had the opportunity to leave the danger then you could not invoke self-defense if you did not try and retreat. Stand your ground laws enable people to have the option to defend themselves instead of first trying to retreat.

What do you think about Stand Your Ground laws?