Stand Your Ground laws are under increased scrutiny with the nationally publicized case of Trayvon Martin in Florida, with many speaking out against these laws as excuses for unwarranted gun violence. When seen through a purely objective lens, however, Stand Your Ground is of utmost importance for criminal defense law in the states in which it is practiced.
While it is always a tragedy when laws contribute to the deaths of innocent citizens, the truth is that Stand Your Ground is a vital part of criminal defense law. The 2005 law in Florida with that name states that individuals who discharge firearms while defending themselves are presumed innocent and may not be found liable in a civil or criminal court if they acted reasonably.
Where Stand Your Ground comes from
This law came from the fact that individuals being attacked would defend themselves, but they would then be sued by their attackers, leading to a sense of inescapable victimization. Those under attack had a duty to retreat, meaning while under attack the victim must first make an effort to run away or evade assault before being legally permitted to defend oneself. If an individual did not defend him or herself, he or she could be injured or even killed; however, if the victim did use defense, the victim could be charged with a crime.
No excuse for abuse of Stand Your Ground
While the law itself can stand up under scrutiny as a sound example of protecting constitutional intent, Stand Your Ground has been said to potentially cause an increase in violent crimes. A recent study conducted by the University of Florida has reported that since the institution of Stand Your Ground in 2005, the number of violent crime has actually decreased.