Just days ago, on Friday, March 16, Wyoming became the 36th state to join the large majority that qualify as “Stand-Your-Ground” jurisdictions, furthering a trend that has been moving in only a single direction for quite a few years.

During the 2013 murder trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin—a trial that justly resulted in Zimmerman’s acquittal of all criminal charges—much was made by the media and activists (but I repeat myself) about the fact that Florida was a “Stand-Your-Ground” state. This furor was ignited and fueled relentlessly despite the fact that the legal doctrine of “Stand-Your-Ground” was, in fact entirely irrelevant to the case.

Although at the time many seemed to suggest that “Stand-Your-Ground” was an aberrant public policy limited to a small number of states, or perhaps even limited solely to Florida, the truth was that even in 2013 the large majority of American states qualified as “Stand-Your-Ground” jurisdictions, meaning that they did not impose a legal duty to retreat before one could use deadly force in self-defense.

There are, naturally, other conditions that needed to be met in these jurisdictions before deadly defensive force could be used, but a legal duty to retreat was not among them.

Indeed, since Zimmerman’s acquittal on July 13, 2013, and the furor over “Stand-Your-Ground” as some kind of racist “license to kill,” an additional four states have joined the “Stand-Your-Ground” ranks.

In addition to Wyoming making “Stand-Your-Ground” law on March 16, 2018 (although it doesn’t actually take effect until July 1), Iowa did so effective July 1, 2017, Missouri did so effective January 1, 2017, and Alaska did so September 19, 2013.

During this period no state has abandoned “Stand-Your-Ground” and chosen to impose a legal duty to retreat before defensive force is legally justified.

In the same legislation that Wyoming made law last week, the state also expanded it’s self-defense immunity provisions to allow for immunity against criminal prosecution (the state had already previously allowed for immunity against civil suit in self-defense cases). Further, the legislature defined the specific pre-trial legal procedure to be employed in determining whether immunity was warranted.


Andrew F. Branca is an attorney whose practice Law of Self Defense LLC focuses on self-defense law. He is also the host of the weekly “Law of Self Defense LIVE Show.”


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