Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

Unless you have been living under a rock for a couple of weeks, you know about the shooting death Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.  Everyone from Nancy Grace to President Obama has weighed in on the tragedy, and it has reignited the problem of racism in America.  It has also brought about debate over what have become known as “stand your ground” laws, not only in Florida, but in a number of States.

“Stand your ground” laws are meant to define when and if the use of deadly force is appropriate.  Most of them are drafted and promoted by the NRA, and State legislatures have passed them, using the model provided by the NRA.  The problem is that, like many of our government representative, they didn’t take the time to read the damn thing.  Now, after the death of this teenager, they are finally going to have to take a good hard look at what they have created.

Florida’s law is titled Justifiable Use of Force, under Title XLVI, Chapter 776.013, with a subset of definitions – Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear or death or great bodily harm.   As you read it, it becomes apparent that there is language in the law that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. One particular phrase pertaining to the use of deadly force, and which I found to be less than clear or concise, reads as follows:

“he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.”

Couple that with another provision contained in the law – “to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony,” and George  Zimmerman, the individual who shot Trayvon Martin, has a pretty good defense for his actions, as irresponsible and moronic as they may appear to us.  Many States have laws that require that an individual must be in fear for their life or the lives of others, and must be unable to escape a hostile attack.  This bill does not require any sort of retreat – just “stand your ground”, or maybe just follow someone you fear, like a teenager with a can of ice tea and a box of Twizzlers.

When Florida first entertained the idea of passing the law, prosecutors across the State argued against it, trying to convince the legislators that it would turn Florida into the wild West.  Apparently, they weren’t entirely wrong.  Since its passage, the State has seen the number of cases of justifiable homicide triple.  Its two main sponsors, Senator Durrell Peadon, and Representative Dennis Baxley, are now saying that this was not what they had intended when they brought the law up for debate.  Baxley is still defending the law as a good and useful one.  I think it’s left a number of us with real questions, and given some people a license to kill.


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21 Responses to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

  1. I just couldn’t resist this quote from Geraldo Rivera:
    “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta—you’re going to be a gangsta wannabe, well people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens. It is an instant, reflexive action.”
    I’m in trouble. I own at least 4 “hoodies”.

  2. thedesigndiva2 says:

    Geraldo is an ASSHAT….his father should have worn a HOODIE the night geraldo was concieved..!!!!

    I abide by the Castle law here…you can enter my yard and do no harm..Enter my home uninvited and you will leave in a body bag..supplied by me..!!!!
    I remember a case here in Fl down in Boca where some kids were out ringing door bells…doing what kids do..One of them was SHOT IN THE BACK by the H/O
    I think he got jail time…on WEEKENDS….!!!!
    We live in a mixed up fumbled up screwed up world…LOLA….. L O L A LOLA…..

    • Poor Geraldo just hasn’t been the same since his disappointment over Al Capone’s vault.
      dd, nothing against any of you Floridians, but are all of the legislators there on crack?

      hugs to you and “Slim” 🙂

      • MaggieG says:

        Now being a Floridian I feel justified in saying that it’s an exceedingly backward state.

        • klmh says:

          Can you imagine living in Oklahoma, the state that has the most ignorant man on the Hill, Senator Jim Inhofe. God in heaven, I am so embarrassed.
          At least Taylor A. was born in Kansas. I don’t have to live with that one anymore…

  3. Donna says:

    Because of the backlash I’ve largely kept out of the debate because my husband and I own guns. I keep them locked up in thousand pound, fire proof gun safe which is in the basement. We like to go target shooting.

    At one time my late father tried to get me to get into competition shooting. Nada I don’t like targets that are shaped like a human.

    My stomach churns if I have to kill and spider, fly, insect, lol except skeeters. My bedroom has a deadbolt lock on it. I’ve always said that I don’t have the guts to kill a human being I would just go out my bedroom window.

    Yes, we are members of the NRA and joined at the time when it was being bandied at that time to confiscate guns from the people.

    My late father was a auxillary police officer that qualified police officers at the gun range. I learned gun safely when I knee high to a grasshopper.

    That being said, I find it extremely disturbing that the person that killed this young man without provacation isn’t even receiving a slap on the wrist.

    • Donna, My husband and I own guns also. Having been in law enforcement, we have a healthy respect for their power and a better than average knowledge on handling them safely.
      I don’t think that the debate regarding this particular law is about gun control, or the right to own them, at all. To me, it is more about a badly written piece of legislation, with huge loopholes, which, because they were not addressed before passage, left too much room for an individual’s perceptions and interpretation.

    • Viewer 5 says:

      Donna, darling! I am a dilettante trap and skeet shooter, and NRA member. OT (but fun) I had MANY huge trucks up my ass during the ’08 campaign b/c of my obama sticker (whom i volunteered for full time.) I finally put my NRA sticker on the other side of the Volvo (of course) wagon and presto… no trucks tailgating. I plan on applying both stickers for ’12 in a month or two, again.

      I can’t kill a fly. I will kill mosquitoes. I eat burgers or steaks 10-12 times a year. No fowl/ pig/factory farmed dairy products, ever, and sometimes I will eat salmon. No other fish. (Because the little fishies in the tank come up and say “hi” and stuff.) When the NRA calls, I tell them “you really don’t want to talk to a quasi-vegan, clay pigeon shooting leftie commie, do you?” which always cracks them up. I hate that the money goes toward wacky legislation.

      I don’t shoot handguns very often. Too much power for me and I need a LOT of guidance when shooting them. They are usually too heavy for me to keep steady. I just don’t go near them. I think maybe rifle target practice might be more fun for me.

      But about Trayvon… I have been following all week on msnbc – particularly Sharpton, whom I adore. This *will* end in justice for the family. That poor little boy with his Skittles, and his lovely parents who are so composed and thoughtful in everything they say when interviewed. I have hope. I really do.

      • Donna says:

        Try a 380 Beretta, they have a nice feel in women’s hands and are not that powerful

        • I’ll definitely have to get one whenever I go to Florida, Texas, Arizona….and any other state with this asinine law that allows people like Zimmerman to shoot folks for no reason. My son could have been Trayvon’s brother. Please God let there be justice for Trayvon.

          Another reason I don’t own guns….is that people like Zimmerman would then have to be very afraid of me.

  4. Adgirl says:

    Hoodies … my husband has a viseral reaction when he’s around people he percieves as gangstas.

    Ocassionally. he is right However he doesn’t have kids so I think he seizes up with ridiculous scenarios just because a young man is walking near him … wearing a hoodie. Well, my kids wear hoodies. And so do I. Shit. I might get shot on my way to 7-11. I wear them because I am COLD and they are comfortable.

    Secondly, I point out hubs that nice good kids need to protect themselves from gangstas by looking formidible.
    In short, worrry about the people who are following too close, driving slowly in cars and doing other overtly suspicous acts. Stop getting creeped by kids walking to school or the minimart in their hoodlies.

  5. Lisa Renee says:

    Hello everyone, I have been enjoying this new blog & the comments from alot of familiar names. I follwed everyone over here from lynn’s spot &I have never posted on any blog but hers. I am jumping in with my two cents since the posts & comments are the same tone as lynn’s. We will see, cuz I have an opinion lol!

    The SYG law was enacted to aid people like me & to aid the state att’y from charging people who have a valid circumstance of self defense. Self sefense could only be claimed in a court of law successfully after the defendant proved that they retreated before they responded. If you did not retreat before you protect yourself you broke the law. You are charged with a homicide & either forced to take a plea or hope the jury found you not guilty by reason of self defense.

    After SYG you literally can shoot first & ask questions later. Before SYG if you were in your home you had no right to defend yourself if there was a chance for you to retreat BEFORE shooting. Also, SYG enables citizens to no longer have to retreat & use deadly force if they are being carjacked or assaulted outside their home. Again, eliminating my legal obligation to retreat before I shoot. You also must be in lawful possession of the gun.
    Most importantly the SYG law can only be applied if you are not the aggressor, clearly Triggerman was. IMO what he did was read half the law & laid in wait for just the right time to be a “hero”. Schmuck. I am 47 years old with no record. Before SYG if I killed some one in my home (besides the hubby) I would have to be charged. If I stabbed some one trying to car jack me(i like knives) I would be charged. Now, I have the right to protect myself free & clear. Anywhere time or place. The fall out of the rise in justifiable homicides is because the State Attorney is not forced to charge good upstanding citizens who meet every criteria of the law. That IMO is a good thing.

    The reason I embraced this law is because my daughter is a woman of color. I worry for her as the women of color worry for their children. Hell, she is headed to law school & I went and snatched all her hoodies out of her closet. I never wanted to get her a gun before this law because god forbid she was successful in protecting herself, we would have a harder time proving her case because of her color & a white mom. I empowered her in other ways. After this law she got a permit & lessons etc. I feel much better about her living on her own now.

    I have a unique view to race relations. I grew up in NYC & raised My child on pensacola beach. The deplorable part on the Police was not getting a detective & an ass’t state att’y on scene immediatly. Triggermans intent was clear, he was chasing a dude in a hoodie & he was pissed. Its all recorded by the 911 call. The decision to charge or not charge some one is not made at the curb by the local police. I do not understand why this needs to go before a grand jury. Had police chief followed protocol, IMO an arrest would have been made by now. This idiot was on a mission & will try to pervert the law to justify the murder of a child. I take solace that I have never seen it work.

    Thanks for the use of y’alls soap box. Sorry so long, this tragedy makes my nightmares real & I think its important to understand the law before we condem it. Thanks, Lisa Renee

    • Lisa Renee,
      I think there is a clear distinction between condemning a law and debating its efficacy and clarity. There are portions of this legislation that leave a lot to interpretation, and that is when tragedies like this happen.
      Mr. Zimmerman is, quite simply, a nutjob, and a police groupie, who, for whatever reason, decided that he was going to be the sheriff of his neighborhood. The police failed in that they should have applied for a warrant after a thorough investigation – gathering evidence, taking statements and completing forensic testing.
      I agree that one should be able to protect themselves and others from imminent bodily harm – something that Zimmerman either failed or didn’t care to realize.
      I’ve been a police officer, have a law degree and have held office in local government, so I guess you could say I’ve made, enforced and interpreted laws. This one just needs to be tweaked so that there can be no misunderstanding about its purpose.
      No opinion here is judged. If you’ve followed here long enough and read a few of the posts, you will find that there are some very bright, perceptive and open-minded folks. Debate and dialogue are good for all of us. I welcome you aboard and hope that you will share more thoughts in the future.

    • Viewer 5 says:

      Lisa Renee – I’ve been following this as well. I did not have a clear understanding of “the law.” However, I did remember a commenter stating that a lot of law enforcement were not (as it were) following the letter of the law (such as the zimmerman case) and letting the shooter go free. I do recall one of the “writers” of the law saying that “this is not how this is supposed to be interpreted” – although he didn’t offer finer points as to why.

      Thank you for explaining it to us. I’m a returned Floridian (south Florida – current resident) as is Diva… we grew up in the same town. (I am also an ex ny’er, and your age.) I *know* Florida. And I don’t mean that in a positive way. I can see how this law got distorted in the… I dunno… arrest/prosecution/charges/whatever process. (Pardon… I know nothing of how that works.) FL is still a good ‘ol boy state. And until that (pardon my harshness) generation dies off, it will remain that way. I remember telling one of my shooting buddies, who is 78 and grew up in Georgia (enough said) that “You do realize a whole generation of people younger than myself are just WAITING for people like you to die off, don’t you?” b/c I believe certain rhetoric to be inflammatory, unnecessary, and backwards. And I believe that what you say reverberates energetically. (not to get too groovy, but I just believe it.) People can think what they want… duh… but the clubbiness (if you will) of racism is the way these selfish, small, mean-spirited and stupid fucking bitter people try to feel better about their own shallow lives. Or something.

      It’s been fifty years. It’s going to take another fifty. And an extra twenty-five after that. Best love and wishes to your daughter and all your family’s progeny. You and I will not be around to see what we know to be truth and justice for all men. But every positive thought and action and every positive word is a tiny hole in the cloak of false belief that anyone “other” than (whom one perceives oneself to be) is truly, ever, actually “other” to begin with.

      I’m sorry to go on, and to go way OT. This whole broader issue is something that has always made me feel a little insane at times, and more frequently rageful. I chalk it up to #floriduh. 😉


  6. PussyGalore says:

    Where to even begin….there are so many aspects to this story and subject.

    I like to call him …….Hair Aldo and I think you’re right that he hasn’t been the same since the vault thing shortly after which he took that beating and he could very well be brain damaged from that.

    On passage of Stand your Ground, its sponsors “are now saying that this was not what they had intended when they brought the law up for debate”. Oh really…well, what then was your intention? Or were you you just trying to ram the bill through because you’d taken so much money from the NRA lobby? There are times when it appears to me that nothing short of reinventing the wheel is going to do the trick. There is so much that needs to change, in Canada and the U. S., and all over the world. Special interests wielding so much power in both federal and state politics is counterintuitive to fairness it seems to me but this is something that is heavily entrenched in the system. Like so much else I wonder what hope there is of really changing things up so that we are not living in a “mixed up, fumbled up, screwed up world”.

    Stand Your Ground, on its face, doesn’t look like a good idea to me no matter what anyone’s intentions were and initially when I heard Nancy Grace speaking about it I assumed it was some crazy law that some wily Florida politician had sneakily gotten passed, but that it was limited to Florida. It came as a complete shock to me that 16 states have enacted Stand Your Ground. I don’t know about the other 15 states but it hasn’t worked out too well for the State of Florida.

    I’m encouraged to see so many people coming together to express their dismay about Zimmerman not having been charged with any crime when he mowed down an innocent boy who was significantly smaller, unarmed and just walking along minding his own business. Thank goodness so many people are so upset because, if not, Zimmerman might still be out there looking for another unarmed and innocent victim. Unfortunately at this point there is no crime scene to investigate, the gun will yield no clues a month after the incident, the gunman has not been tested for anything and hasn’t even been questioned at this point. It will be a difficult case to prosecute that’s for sure and for that there’s plenty of blame to go around. I do hope and pray that Trayvon’s family gets the justice they deserve. Rest in peace, Trayvon and I pray you didn’t die in vain.

    • Viewer 5 says:

      lovely, PG. i’d like to add “selfish” to “mixed up, fumbled up, screwed up world,” if i may.

  7. codystl says:

    I’ve tried to look at this situation from Trayvon’s point of view. He was a young kid without the 70 plus years of knowledge of the old south. So, hear he is, walking home and there is someone watching/following him. He probably thought it was some kind of child predator. So he puts up the hood of the jacket…

    • What breaks my heart is that Trayvon was heard crying, & yelling for help by one of the homeowners where this occurred. His girlfriend was on the phone with him, but the police never talked to her….witnesses are coming forward. There will be justice for Trayvon. Zimmerman would have been arrested & would have gone to jail in the state of NJ, and then the prison population would have taken care of him.

      I am so outraged by this tragedy that it’s hard to discuss it rationally. As Obama said, Trayvon looks like my son. Trayvon could be my son’s brother. My son wants to be a police officer. But God willing, NOT in the state of Floriduh! Or any other state like it.

  8. Adgirl says:

    As a mom … my first thought about this tragedy was about the terrible fear this young man must have felt when he realized Mr Neighborhood Vigilante was following him with the intent to hurt him. Terrifying.

  9. Donna says:

    This was an interesting article, there is an interesting map in it:


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