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Standing Ground

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The term "stand-your-ground" law comes from one particular aspect of the self-defense laws passed in a number of states.  This aspect overrules case law in those states saying that a person attacked in a public place must retreat rather than respond with deadly force if possible.

Some states, however, don't need a "stand your ground" statute because their courts never made a "duty to retreat" rule by caselaw in the first place.  Bob Egelko has this story in the SF Chron noting that California is one such state.  Overall, though, California law is not particularly friendly to people using deadly force against the initial aggressor.  Of the three briefs that CJLF has filed in support of defendants over the years, two of them have been in California cases where the initial victim was charged with murder for using supposedly excessive force against the initial aggressor.

Both Egelko and Curt Anderson for AP note additional advantages for the defendant in the Florida law, aside from the "stand your ground" aspect.

Anderson says, "The U.S. Supreme Court has never weighed in on the constitutionality of such laws, and none has been struck down by a lower court."  Well, of course not.  People can, should, and do debate the wisdom of such laws, but what serious argument could be made that they are unconstitutional?  It has apparently become part of our modern legal mentality that we assume every important question must be a constitutional question, and a federal one at that.

Bill Cosby weighs in with an interesting interview at CNN.

1 Comment

I've always wondered whether self-defense (a constitutional right) needed breathing room akin to the First Amendment. What is the extent of the power of the state to punish someone for defending him or herself in a situation that he or she did not create? How much risk of harm can the state tell its citizens it has to accept from an aggressor? Could a state constitutionally tell a woman that she cannot use deadly force against a rapist?

I'd be interested to hear people's views.

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