This Case of the Week is not so much a case of self-defense law as it is a case of mischaracterization of self-defense law. As sure as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, the media will continue to mischaracterize “Stand-Your-Ground” in terms of both actual application and as legal doctrine.

A recent example came across my desk this week from a publication named “Black Voice News,” in an article you can find by clicking here.

Errors in Actual Application of “Stand-Your-Ground”

First, the article mischaracterizes the number of states that actually apply “Stand-Your-Ground,” if by “Stand-Your-Ground” we mean that there is no legal duty to retreat imposed on a non-aggressor,  who is facing an imminent threat of deadly force attack, which is the only legally correct definition.

The article helpfully supplies a map of the United States with the purported “Stand-Your-Ground” states colored blue, and all others left uncolored. In total, the map indicates 22 “Stand-Your-Ground” states.

The map is badly mistaken.

Among the 28 states left uncolored, thus indicating non-“Stand-Your-Ground” status, fully half are also “Stand-You-Ground” states as a matter of law. These additional “Stand-Your-Ground” states include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In fact, only a minority of 14 states impose a legal duty to retreat before deadly defensive force may be used by a non-aggressor to defend against an imminent deadly force attack.

Errors in Characterizing the Legal Doctrine of “Stand-Your-Ground”

The article then goes on to grossly mischaracterize what “Stand-Your-Ground” is and does. The author writes, for example:

In essence, “stand your ground” laws provide an escape clause from criminal prosecution for individuals who kill another person.

Actually, no. “Stand-Your-Ground” provides no “escape clause.” A person raising the legal defense of self-defense in a “Stand-Your-Ground” jurisdiction needs to make precisely the same legal argument as he would have to make if he were not in a “Stand-Your-Ground” jurisdiction—except that he is relieved of the legal duty to retreat if he is the non-aggressor and is faced with an imminent threat of a deadly force attack.

All “Stand-Your-Ground” jurisdictions are saying is that if you are the innocent victim of an imminent deadly force attack, you are legally entitled to use deadly defensive force if necessary to save your life, and the state won’t put you in prison for the rest of your life simply because you failed to take advantage of a purportedly safe avenue of retreat as you were fighting for your life.

The minority of 14 “Duty-to-Retreat” states, on the other hand, reserve the right to put you in prison for the rest of your life even if you are the innocent victim of an imminent deadly force attack, and manage to survive at the cost of your attacker’s life, if they can convince the jury that you could have safely escaped while fighting for your life.

Numerous Other Errors in Logic and Reasoning

As usual with these types of propagandistic articles, it is also loaded with plenty of other errors in logic and reasoning. For example, the author writes:

The Center for American Progress also reported recently that in states like Florida for example, that implemented “stand your ground” in 2005, gun violence in the state experienced a 20 percent increased—a near two decades high.

Here the article assumes that a 20% increase in “gun violence” is a bad thing, but that’s a foolish assumption. When a woman uses a gun to protect herself against a rapist, that’s an act of “gun violence,” but surely we can all agree it’s a social good. Similarly when a parent uses a gun to keep a child from being kidnapped, or when any lawful person uses a gun to protect themselves from a felony assault.

Assuming that “gun violence” is always a “bad thing” is childish thinking, and not even that of a very bright child.

The article also states:

These laws provide legal license for the killing of Black men as they are more likely than any other demographic to become victims of “stand your ground” killings.

First, “these laws” provides no “legal license” for the killing of anyone, as already described. Second, there’s no credible evidence to support this claim that “Black men” are more likely than any other demographic to become “victims” of “Stand-Your-Ground killings.”

Even if we were to assume that latter claim were true, it’s only half the relevant question. Might it not also be true that “Black men” (I would suggest Black people generally) are more likely than any other demographic to benefit from the increased scope of lawful self-defense allowed for by “Stand-Your-Ground?” After all, are not most victims of black criminals also black people who are defending themselves against this criminal predation?

It Pays to Know What the Law of Self-Defense Actually Is

As always, it pays to know what the law of self-defense actually is—based on actual statutes, court decisions, and jury instructions, and taught by a genuinely knowledgeable source—rather than to rely on the scribblings of a “journalist” with little understanding of the subject matter, and particular not the type of “journalist” with a propagandistic agenda.

Fortunately, you’re in luck—quality education on the actual law of self-defense is readily available from, you guessed it, the Law of Self Defense. Check out the free content at the links in my signature for a good, no-cost start.

–Andrew

Learn more about self-defense law from Attorney Andrew F. Branca and Law of Self Defense LLC by visiting the Law of Self Defense Patreon page for both free and paid-access content, and by viewing his free weekly Law of Self Defense Show.