Do you know your state's self defense law(s)?
What do you do when you’re sitting at home, relaxing from a long day’s work, and suddenly someone is breaking into your house? Do you have time to call the cops? Do you know how to defend yourself? Are you even supposed to defend yourself?
Don’t worry, chances are your state allows you to defend yourself in your own home. Over half of the states have passed Castle Laws. Some have even passed a law stating that you can defend yourself in a public area given that you don’t have a duty to retreat. These are known as Stand Your Ground Laws.
Here’s the thing…your ego can put you in jail. Don’t be stupid; if someone is looking for assault and battery charges to go on their record because you looked at their girlfriend wrong, they’re not worth it. Stroke their ego, and try to avoid the fight by either defusing the situation or walking away.
This is your duty to retreat, and something often times overlooked. If it can be proved in court that you did everything you could to avoid confrontation, but still ended up having to defend yourself, then you’re within the boundaries of your state's self defense law.
If you decide that this punk isn’t going to get the better of you…well, he probably will whether you win the “fight” or not, because chances are you’re spending the night in jail. That’s right; there’s a difference between fighting and self-defense. If you do nothing to try to avoid the conflict, it is no longer considered a self-defense scenario. It’s simply a fight.
Some states don’t enforce the duty to retreat in all cases. If a state law dictates that you do not have a duty to retreat, then you can match force with force (even deadly force with deadly force) when assaulted in a place you have the right to be. This is especially true for your home, vehicle, or place of work.
There is much controversy surrounding Stand Your Ground Laws, especially in Florida. Many officials claim the law is confusing. Even more troublesome is the statistic that cases of self defense have tripled, because people can claim they felt their life was threatened. Were these justified homicides truly in the name of self defense?
So what’s the difference? There’s not much. Just to clear it up, if your state has a Stand Your Ground Law then you do not have a duty to retreat if assaulted in any place you have the right to be, including public areas. If your state only has a Castle Law, then this only applies when you’re in your home (or in some states, your vehicle). If your state has neither of these laws in place, then you have a duty to retreat, and can only defend yourself if retreating is futile to your safety or if the act of retreating somehow put your life in danger.
It’s important that you know your state's self defense law and your rights so that you can avoid jail time by abiding them, but it’s even more important to know these laws and how others can misuse them.
Here is a quick "self defense law" guide/reference to which states currently recognize a Stand Your Ground Law, Castle Law, or have no Castle Law.
States with Stand Your Ground Laws
States with Castle Laws
States with No Clear Castle Doctrine
None of the above information should be taken as legal guidance. If you are in need of legal guidance, please refer to your state’s legislature on specific issues of self defense rights or consult a lawyer.
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