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The Facts About Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law

Many people have heard of Florida's controversial self-defense law called the "Stand Your Ground" law, especially in light of the recent Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case, but what is actually contained in these laws? The Law Office of A. Antonio Tomas, P.A. discusses the history as well as the implications of the Stand Your Ground Law.

Essentially, this law gives individuals the right to use deadly force (firearm or other) to defend themselves if they feel they are in danger of being harmed. The law does not require the individual to attempt to evade or retreat from the potentially dangerous situation. The law also does not require the person to be in their home or other property. The Stand Your Ground law can apply anywhere.

George Zimmerman was recently acquitted of murder in the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman believed he was acting lawfully under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, and the jurors agreed. Zimmerman's attorneys did not use this law as his defense, but it was still a main topic throughout this case.

Florida's Stand Your Ground law can be found in § 776.013 of the Florida Statutes. Similar self-defense laws in other states require a person who feels threatened to attempt to evade the situation in order to avoid bodily harm. In an NPR interview with State Representative Dennis Baxley, the man who wrote the law, Baxley gave his reasoning for why he wrote the law so that individuals wouldn't be required to retreat, saying "The duty to retreat puts the person at great risk."

The bill was not controversial when it was on the table, in fact, it passed back in 2005 in a 39-0 vote in the Senate and 94-20 in the House. Among those who originally opposed the law Miami law enforcement officers and the police chief himself. In the years immediately following the passage of this law, justifiable homicides in Florida have tripled.

Florida was the first state to pass this type of law. Now, more than 30 other states have passed similar laws, including Texas, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Illinois. New Hampshire recently tried to repeal their version of the Stand Your Ground law saying that it was unconstitutional, but the repeal failed.

Race played a large role in the recent Zimmerman case. Many believe that Zimmerman only felt threatened because Trayvon Martin was black, which is not adequate reason for feeling threatened. Much of the case centered on proving whether or not Zimmerman had reasonable cause to feel threatened and fear for his safety, even though he was not actually being attacked at the time he pulled the trigger.

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