The shooting death of Trayvon Martin has drawn national attention to Florida's "stand your ground" law, which says there's no duty to retreat -- anywhere -- before using force in self-defense. But Florida is not alone.
In many states, a legal doctrine called the "castle doctrine" allows the use force in self-defense, without retreating, if a person is at home. It's derived from the old adage that "a person's home is his castle." But critics worry about the unintended consequences of "castle" laws, and especially Florida's "stand your ground" law.
"I think there is vigilante justice happening and I think people are getting shot," one Florida lawmaker told USA Today. Here's how Florida's stand your ground law compares to some key examples of similar statutes in other states:
Florida -- Under Florida's law, a person who is attacked in a place "where he or she has a right to be" (indoors or outdoors) has no duty to retreat. A person can "stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force" if it's "necessary" to prevent death, serious bodily harm, or "the commission of a forcible felony."
New York -- New York's self-defense law states that a person cannot use deadly force if the person can safely retreat. But there is no duty to retreat if a person is at home and did not start the altercation, or if the other party is committing a kidnapping, rape, robbery, burglary, or arson.
Texas -- Texas' stand your ground law explicitly states "there is no duty to retreat" before using deadly force, if the use of deadly force is justified. Valid reasons include stopping an armed kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, or robbery, along with self-defense. But self-defense cannot be claimed if a person provoked the other party.
California -- California's castle law allows a home's occupant to use deadly force, without retreating, if an intruder creates a "reasonable fear of imminent peril or death or great bodily injury." But a simple burglary that doesn't create fear of great bodily harm isn't enough to justify deadly force.
Colorado -- Under Colorado's version of the castle law, a home's occupant can use deadly force, without retreating, against any intruder who intends to commit a crime, or who uses "any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant."
Colorado's castle law was also called a "Make My Day Law" -- a reference to a famous Clint Eastwood movie line -- when it was enacted in 1985.
- Trayvon Martin Case Heads to Grand Jury (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Florida's New 'Stand Your Ground' Law: Why It's More Extreme than Other States' Self-Defense Measures, And How It Got that Way (FindLaw's Writ)
- Recent Gun Crimes Could Trigger New Pennsylvania Self-Defense Law (FindLaw)
- What is the 'Stand Your Ground' Law in California? (The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog)