Back in 2005, when this blog was in its infancy, I wrote a few posts about a new FL law which removed the duty to retreat before employing deadly force. The law, in essence, expanded the concept of the “castle doctrine” to, well, everywhere:
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
I was concerned at the time with the implications of such legislation, both for lawyers and on law and order in general. Two years later, when Texas did away with the duty to retreat, I posted my concerns again and used the phrase “free for all”. I received some criticism at the time and most of the comments echoed one common sentiment: you show up in my house; I kill you.
Being the peace loving, pot smoking, Grateful Dead listening type, this open invitation to engage in needless violence perturbed me, but I was assured by smarter people that it was not a concern. Now, 4 years later, it seems as though I’m not the only one vexed by such legislation. As this article from the Miami Herald illustrates, more than just a naive blogger from CT is vexed by the law and what to do with it.
I think this would be an appropriate time to state that as a criminal defense lawyer, I’d love this law. That a fear of imminent physical danger serve as a bar to prosecution would be a godsend from the purely adversarial scenario. But as a resident in our communities, I’m not sure that this is still a good idea. To remove an incentive to de-escalate conflict and prevent needless violence doesn’t strike me as very smart or desirable.
No one disputes that Maurice Moorer fired more than a dozen bullets to kill a rival sitting in a car in West Little River last year.
Moorer claimed self-defense. Police detectives begged to differ.
But prosecutors say they were forced to drop a murder charge against Moorer because of the controversial 2005 ‘Stand Your Ground’ self-defense law that broadened a citizen’s ability to use deadly force. “There is no law now that we can point to say Moorer should have backed off, that he should have avoided this,” said Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hoague, who says the new law “cheapens human life.”
I think I would agree with her. None of the people who responded to my posts back in 2005 saw this as encouraging vigilantism or resulting in a large number of acts of violence. But as the cases in Florida demonstrate, there are more than a few: Continue reading