Florida’s “stand your ground” law has been in the spotlight since the murder of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. You don’t have to look far to find criticism and analysis of the law that is designed to help people acting in self-defense. But some of the media reports seem to criticize the law for some of the people it ends up helping—namely, those with a criminal record.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, 60 percent of those people who claimed self-defense in a fatal case were arrested at least once before the incident. In more than 30 of the 100 cases analyzed, the defendant had a history of violent offenses. More than one-third of the defendants reviewed had been arrested, charged, or convicted for threatening someone with a weapon or illegally carrying a gun.
But, is all of this really surprising? People with criminal histories are more likely to be involved in crime. They are more likely to be hanging out in the neighborhoods where they would be caught in a situation that self-defense was necessary and are more likely to encounter other people with criminal pasts than the average, crime-free Joe living in an upper-middle class neighborhood.
Credit goes to the Tampa Bay Times, who point out when quoting one local defense lawyer, that though someone’s criminal background might “affect their credibility, but that should not disqualify them from claiming stand your ground.’
“It would be impractical to try and apply the law differently between those who do and don’t have records, and frankly, it would be unfair.”
Sixty-seven percent of all defendants who invoked the “stand your ground” law went free. Defendants with criminal histories had a slightly lower success rate than those without. But, even those with three or more arrests were successful in their defense 45 percent of the time.
The “stand your ground” law isn’t only a self-defense law, that says you have a right to defend yourself with deadly force if you believe you are under a real threat; it also does away with any legally required duty to retreat. In many states, you must not have a viable escape before you can invoke deadly self-defense. The Florida law is more lenient in that regard.
Not all self-defense cases involve the use of a gun, and not all of them result in death. Many are a matter of a fist fight or similar situation. And even when you are fighting to defend yourself, it’s not unusual to face your own charge of assault. If you are charged with a violent crime and are in need of assistance, contact our offices today to discuss your case.