What does ‘Stand Your Ground’ really mean?

Written by Sean Baxter

On August 16, 2019

Stand Your Ground

We hear this a lot when talking to people about self defense. “Well, its a Stand Your Ground’ state so of course he was able to shoot him.”  But what does that even mean? I can tell you this much with certainty, it doesn’t mean what most people think it means, so allow me to clarify the law and dispel some rather dangerous misconceptions.

To be clear, it is in the 13 states that are not considered ‘Stand Your Ground’, that have imposed a ‘DUTY to RETREAT before DEADLY FORCE may be used’ in their statutes.   This requires a person to use any safe avenue of retreat before lethal force can be applied when facing a deadly threat.  In states WITHOUT that legal duty to retreat, the right to self defense defaults to not requiring retreat. It does NOT grant you extra-legal measures not normally allowed. It does NOT provide for you to use DEADLY FORCE when facing a NON-DEADLY threat, nor does it allow you to use force when no force is needed.

Important distinction

Stand your ground does not grant special privileges, nor allow someone to use lethal force in a circumstance that doesn’t normally allow for deadly force.  It also doesn’t mean you HAVE to stand your ground, and you might be much better off if you can take advantage of a safe retreat.  It simply means, there is NO DUTY to RETREAT. And as such, one of the five elements of legal self defense are removed from consideration.

But if you live a stand-your-ground (SYG) state it would benefit you if you act as if you did not. If you enter into a deadly encounter and you could’ve avoided it without increasing your risk or someone else’s, but you decided to stay and “fight it out”, you’re not the brightest bulb in the box.

Stand your ground” states

The states that do not impose a legal duty to retreat are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. And are properly called “Stand Your Ground” states.

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