Alarming Facts About Stand Your Ground Laws

One reason stand your ground law is so controversial may be because it’s sometimes misunderstood. Many gun-rights advocates, led by NRA rhetoric, likely support it because they believe that changing or repealing stand your ground would somehow take away their 2nd Amendment rights. As a matter of fact, we were fine before stand your ground laws. Americans have always had a right to self-defense.

Here are a few alarming facts about stand your ground:

In most stand your ground cases, the weapon is a gun, the victim unarmed, and the killer goes free.

Tampa Bay Times Graphic of stand your ground cases
Tampa Bay Times Graphic

This was revealed in an excellent comprehensive 2012 Tampa Bay Times study. The research, which claimed that many cases seem to make a mockery of the legal system, also found almost 70 percent of defendants claiming stand your ground were successful, and that defendants were more likely to prevail when victims were black – 73 percent of defendants who killed a black person went free, compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.

 

A successful stand your ground plea may allow immunity from prosecution for killing innocent bystanders.

Darrell Niles
Darrell Niles

Stand your ground laws in some states incorporate immunity from prosecution if an innocent bystander is killed. An example occurred in South Carolina in 2013, which set a dangerous precedent when a shooter was freed of all charges after killing 17 year-old Darrell Niles.

 

Florida lawmakers want to pay up to $200000 for legal fees in self-defense cases.

 Florida could pay up to $200000 for legal fees in a self-defense case.

The man who introduced stand your ground to Florida, state Representative Dennis Baxley, introduced a 2016 bill that would pay legal fees. SB 0344 proposed that if a defendant is brought to trial, then claims and proves self-defense immunity, Florida would reimburse up to $200,000 for all their expenses, including attorney fees, court costs, and compensation for loss of income.

 

Stand your ground law violates an international human rights treaty the U.S. signed in 1977, and helps get the U.S. a failing grade on human rights.

United States Human Rights Scorecard
United States Human Rights Scorecard (credit: CCPR)

In 2013, after the United Nations Commission on Human Rights urged the United States to examine stand your ground laws, one U.S. Senate hearing was held. Since then, no action has been taken to address stand your ground on a federal level. In 2015, the commission gave the U.S. a low score of C1 on reviewing stand your ground laws (one of several factors needed to conform to international human rights standards).

 

Using stand your ground defense allows a defendant two chances to avoid prison.

Jail card

When a defendant invokes stand your ground law, they petition the court for a hearing before a judge who determines, among other things, if the defendant had a right to be where the incident occurred, who was at fault, whether the defendant had intent, and felt threatened while in fear for their life. A judge decides the case, and whether it goes to trial. If a defendant loses at this stand your ground hearing, a case goes to trial. If the defendant wins, charges may be dropped.

 

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