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What is a "stand your ground" law?

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Quick Answer

A "stand your ground" law gives citizens the right to defend themselves in certain circumstances without the duty to first retreat. Under this law, citizens have the right to use force to defend themselves in instances of imminent danger without first attempting to flee, according to Find Law. State legislatures pass the laws to deter criminals by making them realize that victims can legally fight back, and can prevent criminal aggressors from filing lawsuits against them when they are defending themselves.

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Full Answer

Twenty-three states have a "stand your ground" law in place, according to Find Law. In these states, a claim of self defense under this law provides immunity from prosecution. A self-defense plea at an assault trial under a "stand your ground" law typically never goes to trial. Eighteen states specify that there is a duty to retreat.

State laws vary concerning where and under what circumstances victims can stand their ground, points out the National Conference of State Legislatures. In some states, people can stand their ground anywhere they are legally present, but in other states, stand-your-ground statutes only apply to personal homes or vehicles. Under self-defense laws in states without stand-your-ground laws, victims must attempt every possibility of escape before using deadly force, notes About.com.

Stand-your-ground laws only apply when victims are in imminent danger of serious bodily injury, robbery, rape, kidnapping or death, explains The Washington Post. People cannot use deadly force against attackers who are merely blocking them, shouting or moving aggressively. Even if they shoot and miss under such circumstances, police in any state may charge them with attempted murder. Additionally, although victims may claim that they stand their ground because they fear for their lives, judges and juries may conclude that their fears are unreasonable or insincere.

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