Common law has always provided for the use of deadly force in self-defense when an attacker threatens death, serious bodily injury, and sometimes a serious felony. Under common law, a person in fear of his or her life had a duty to retreat before using deadly force unless he or she was within his or her own home. The Castle Doctrine provided that a person in his home had no duty to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker believed to be an imminent threat. It granted the person being threatened immunity from prosecution.
Outside of a person’s home, self-defense laws before Stand Your Ground required individuals to try to diffuse the situation or flee before resorting to violence. When Stand Your Ground was implemented in 2005, the Castle Doctrine expanded so that a person would not have to run from a threatening situation outside of his home. Under Stand Your Ground, any person who feels threatened in public may use deadly force to repel an attack without a duty to retreat, so long as they are anywhere they have a right to be.
How Does Stand Your Ground Affect Women?
Proponents of Stand Your Ground believe it empowers women to arm and protect themselves. Often, they invoke the rare occurrence of a defenseless woman walking alone at night and being attacked by a stranger to justify their support of Stand Your Ground. In this hypothetical scenario, an armed woman, under the old law, would have had to try to flee from or fight off a violent attacker before being allowed to use force, while with Stand Your Ground, she could use deadly force from the start if needed.
More often than not; however, a woman is at risk of violence from someone she knows. More than two-thirds of rape victims are assaulted by someone they know. A CDC report also found that 55% of the more than 10,000 women who were killed between 2003 and 2014 were killed by a male romantic partner. What’s more? When these women do try to defend themselves and survive, many are not only tried and convicted of murder, they often receive longer sentences than their male abusers.
Does Stand Your Ground Apply to Domestic Situations?
When comparing two notable cases in which Stand Your Ground was invoked, it becomes clear that the law works differently for men and women. Stand Your Ground often fails women who defend themselves against intimate partners in their own homes while protecting men who fail to use restraint.
Marissa Alexander vs. George Zimmerman
When 31-year-old Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot at her estranged and abusive husband in 2010 in her home, she was immediately arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. Two years later, she was sentenced to twenty years in prison under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing. One year after that, the appellate court overturned her case due to faulty jury instructions. She was later released on bail, but was made to stay under house arrest. She then accepted her original plea agreement and stayed more than two months in jail. Ms. Alexander was recently released, but it took considerable effort and activism on behalf of her supporters to regain her freedom.
In the George Zimmerman case, 28-year-old George Zimmerman was charged with the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator for the community at the time, was running a personal errand when he observed Martin walking to the community he was guarding after visiting a nearby convenience store. He called the police about a suspicious person in the community and proceeded to take matters into his own hands. After a brief physical altercation, Zimmerman shot and killed Martin just before police arrived to the scene.
Zimmerman was not arrested until six weeks later. Police hesitated to arrest him because they had determined that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense. While Ms. Alexander requested a Stand Your Ground Hearing, the judge in her case ruled that she did not act in self-defense even though she had a protective order against her estranged husband. Alexander also tried to retreat until she was physically unable to; meanwhile, Zimmerman followed the person he deemed suspicious and was even told by the police dispatcher that they did not need him to do that. Ultimately, the jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder and he was acquitted of manslaughter in 2013.
Hiring a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer
Survivors of abuse deserve to have their side of the story fairly represented in a court of law. Their interests deserve to be protected, and they deserve equal treatment from the justice system. At The Law Office of Gabriel and Gabriel, we staunchly stand up for criminal defendants in West Palm Beach, applying over 30 years of criminal law experience to help them achieve desirable results. Contact us at (561) 622-5575 or get in touch to set up a free consultation. We are here for you every step of the way.