[UPDATED May, 2016]
Does your state have a Stand Your Ground law? Some people don’t know whether or not the state they call home has some form of Stand Your Ground law. Some people don’t know what it is. Further, some have even never heard of what’s called a “Castle Doctrine”, or “castle law“. Castle laws have been in place for hundreds of years. Stand Your Ground changes that. More than half of all American states have some variation of these two, distinct laws. Let’s break it down.
It all starts with the castle law. This is based on England’s 17th century doctrine that a man’s home is his castle (in some states, a vehicle is also an extension of the castle). In the castle, or anyplace a person owns or rents that they have a right to be in, under the castle law, the person also has a legal right to defend himself and family against great bodily harm or death, if a person fears an imminent threat – even if by deadly force.
In principle, it gives the defender certain immunities or protection from prosecution under certain circumstances and is considered justifiable homicide, or, justifiable use of force. It is also based on the principle that a person has no duty to retreat from a place he or she has a right to be.
An intruder must be attempting to unlawfully or forcibly enter an occupied residence, business, or vehicle. Some states apply the Castle Doctrine if the occupants reasonably believe the intruder intends to commit a felony such as arson or burglary. The occupant must not have provoked or instigated the intrusion, or provoked/instigated an intruder’s threat or use of deadly force.
In every state, the occupant must have a legal right to be there, must not be fugitives or aiding/abetting other fugitives from the law, and the law can’t be used against a law enforcement officer performing his duty. In some states, the occupant must not be engaged in any unlawful activity during the encroachment, and, in most cases, the castle doctrine gives immunity from civil charges also.
Now, castle laws have been amended to include a “Stand Your Ground” clause, which means one can use deadly force in any place they are legally allowed to be without having a duty to retreat. This can be a home, car, or place of employment as it applies to the Castle Doctrine.
Emphatically, Stand Your Ground specifically simply removes the duty to retreat and in many cases, a requirement that the threat must occur in one’s own space, making it possible for the situation to happen almost anywhere. This is the flash point of the controversy.
The George Zimmerman trial in the shooting of Trayvon Martin raised the specter that Stand Your Ground laws are flawed. However, though the defense didn’t invoke the law, the jury was allowed to hear language from the law, influencing the outcome.
Media outlets have several confusingly different online graphic maps of over 20 states having a Stand Your Ground law or some variation of it. Almost all states have a castle law. With so much conflicting info out there, I thought it best to educate myself on which states actually do have a Stand Your Ground law and try to come up with a more precise calculation, so here it is, without any warranties.
Check to see if your state has a Stand Your Ground law (this list is reviewed & updated periodically), read it, then contact your lawmakers and demand that they review, repeal, and/or abolish any Stand Your Ground laws [Note: some laws may have changed since this article was originally published; updated periodically to reflect any changes in links]:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
[*This article was updated on May 14, 2016 to include Missouri, click that link for latest information on Missouri’s stand your ground laws]
- States with Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine Laws (thesurvivalistblog.net)
- Which States Recognize Your Right To Self-Defense? (lewrockwell.com)
- “Castle Doctrine versus “Stand Your ground” explained (kens5.com)