Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws

I’ve been following the news and opinions surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin lately and there’s one particular item about it that I feel the need to address.

There are claims that Zimmerman may have a legal stance with the “Stand Your Ground” law that Florida (and several other states including Tennessee) has. This particular law is an off-shoot of the Castle Doctrine.

A quick bit of background for those that don’t know:

The Castle Doctrine is a law that states that a person has the right to defend themselves, with deadly force, in their place of residence without fear of prosecution. Now, each state tends to add their own amendments to this, sometimes extending it to include a person’s place of work or their vehicle (or even an immediate family member’s vehicle in Ohio) and other states  sometimes limit it stating that you have a duty to retreat if that is a safe option before using force.

The Stand Your Ground law is added onto the Castle Doctrine in several states. This law extends the boundaries of the Castle Doctrine stating that you do not have to retreat no matter where you are. (again, with various restrictions according to individual state laws)

Not all states have the Castle Doctrine and of those that do not all of them have the addition of the Stand Your Ground law.

Now for my opinion:

I am glad that Tennessee has the Castle Doctrine. If someone breaks into my home I don’t want to have to call out and warn them that I have a weapon (thus letting them know exactly where I am). I don’t want to have to try to escape and risking being injured or killed. I don’t want to prosecuted for manslaughter or sued by the intruder should I use force to stop them from breaking into my home and/or attempting to hurt me.

If someone breaks into my home, I want the right to defend myself, my animals and my property from that intruder without being taken to court for my actions.

Tennessee is also one of the states that has the Stand Your Ground law. Which means if I’m attacked anywhere and I have to defend myself, I can use deadly force. I am also grateful for this law but it’s one that needs to be looked at carefully.

In the case of Zimmerman, the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground law that Florida also has should not be applicable. He lost any protection from that law the moment he stepped one inch in pursuit of Martin. No longer was he defending himself. At that moment he became the aggressor, with a deadly weapon no less.

It bothers me that the authorities in the recent case have not made an arrest and instead are claiming that the Stand Your Ground law makes the issue murky.

As a student of criminal justice myself, I see nothing murky about this case. Zimmerman called 911 to report what he thought was suspicious activity, told the operator that he was going to purse even as the operator advised him not to. Zimmerman clearly stated his intention to pursue on a 911 recording. There is no disputing that. Though the Stand Your Ground law allows Zimmerman to argue to a judge that the case be dropped, it is clear that he gave pursuit rather than “stand his ground”.

It does worry me that this case will cause gun opponents to argue more forcefully against the Stand Your Ground law and Castle Doctrine and perhaps try to have them repealed. I know that most people think that folks who say “you can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers” are also very Republican but I’d like to state that I have the same sentiment and I can state for a fact that I’m most definitely NOT Republican. Heck, I find myself wanting to slap most Republican politicians upside the head for their idiocy.

I grew up a military brat. I grew up with hunters in the family. I learned from a very young age to respect rather than fear guns (and every weapon). I also learned how to use them safely and respectfully. I know how to use one to defend myself and the target from the range that’s hanging in my living room shows that I am a capable shot. I often wonder how many opponents of these laws are afraid of guns simply because they were not taught as I was.

I want the right to defend myself, as I stated above. I have no intention of pursuing an assailant or intruder. Seriously, of all the stupid things that can be done, that might top the list. But I do not feel that I should have to try to retreat, particularly in my own home.

Should the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground law remain in place? Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. Should they be applicable in the case of Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin? Absolutely not.

And that’s the opinion from this very liberal Elf.


~ by rumielf on March 22, 2012.

4 Responses to “Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws”

  1. Nicely written.

  2. Brava. Personally I agree 100% that Zimmerman lost any claim to self defense or SYG as soon as he ignored the police dispatch and stepped from his car.

    At any rate, I’m happy to have both the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground at my disposal. Here’s hoping I never have to invoke either.

    • Thanks hon. 🙂 His whole claim to self defense and the police officers’ claim that they could not legally arrest him really bothers me as they are completely ignoring the actual law and its limitations.

      And though I too hope I never have to claim the protection of those laws, I still want them there, just in case.

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