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CRF Blog » Blog Archive » A Look at ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

CRF Blog

A Look at ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

by Bill Hayes

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb has written an insightful article on “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) Laws.

To engage in an informed discussion of SYG laws, it is useful first to understand the “duty to retreat” and the “castle doctrine.” The “duty to retreat” is a principle of criminal law in a number of states that holds that one person may not lawfully injure or kill another person in self-defense if the would-be self-defender could have safely fled the danger (i.e., “retreated” from the assailant) and thereby avoided injury to all parties. Where it exists, the duty to retreat stems from a judgment that the life of a person who is threatening aggression is nonetheless worth sparing, if the threatened individual can protect his own safety through flight.

Even in “retreat” jurisdictions, though, one does not have to attempt risky escape maneuvers before resorting to force in self-defense. The duty to retreat requires safe retreat, where feasible, not heroism. [more]