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David Griffith

David Griffith

David Griffith has been editor of POLICE Magazine since December 2001. He brings more than 25 years of experience on magazines and newspapers to POLICE. A Maggie award-winning journalist, his byline has appeared on hundreds of articles in POLICE and other national magazines.



Melanie Basich

Melanie Basich

Managing Editor Melanie Basich joined POLICE Magazine in 2000 (when her last name was still Hamilton). An award-winning journalist, she has covered such topics as agency budgets, officer suicide, emerging law enforcement technologies, and active shooter tactics. She writes and manages the product section of POLICE.
Editor's Notes

NRA Explains Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law

A civilian can use deadly force to defend himself in public without needing to retreat.

March 23, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

The fatal shooting of an unarmed Florida teenager by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman has stirred a national debate about Florida's stand-your-ground self-defense law.

The law, which was enacted June 5, 2006, was the first of its kind in the nation and was backed by the National Rifle Association. Since then, 20 other states have passed similar laws. In states without these laws, "stand your ground" is often invoked in court proceedings involving public self-defense shootings. The law removes the legal requirement that a defender must try to retreat before using deadly force.

Media coverage of the law in the weeks following the shooting has often missed the mark, said Christopher Conte, legislative counsel with the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. Conte and the NRA haven't taken a position on the case, because it's still under investigation.

However, several facts have been established. In the moments leading up to the Feb. 26 shooting, George Zimmerman, 28, ignored a police dispatcher's warning to stop pursuing Trayvon Martin, 17. A law enforcement expert told ABC News that Zimmerman sounded intoxicated on the 911 call. Also, Zimmerman told police he was returning to his truck when Martin attacked him from behind. He wasn't given a blood-alcohol-level test and hasn't been arrested.

Castle doctrine allows citizens to use deadly force if an aggressor enters a personal space such as a residence, business, or vehicle. Stand-your-ground was passed to allow deadly force in a public area, by removing the legal obligation to retreat.

"With stand-your-ground, the defendant does not need to establish their ability to run away," Conte said. "There's a lot of case law on this."

If Zimmerman is determined to be the aggressor, he may lose the ability to claim protection from prosecution under the stand-your-ground law. Deadly force is permitted to "prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony," according to the statute.

Read the text of the law here.

Related:

Fla. Chief Steps Down In Teen's Shooting

'Stand Your Ground' Law At Center of Fla. Shooting

Chief In Fla. Teen's Shooting Gets No Confidence Vote

Tags: Trayvon Martin Shooting, Sanford (Fla.) PD, NRA


Comments (16)

Displaying 1 - 16 of 16

Lloyd Reese @ 3/23/2012 6:24 PM

VA is never listed as having a "stand your ground" law. However, it has been pointed out by VA's Citizens Defense League that VA has a 400 years common law tradition that provides like protection to its citizens so long as they are not the cause of the problem. If you are, you must retreat until your back is against the wall before you can legally use deadly force.

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/24/2012 5:42 AM

In Florida you are never required to retreat nor is the suspect required to actually threaten you, its all about how you feel about the suspect in your head. Its a nifty law. As for Zimmerman, with his record he should never have been allowed to own a weapon. He was a self appointed vigilante that had Sanford Police backing. I hope someone sues the crap out of that Police Department because they screwed up big time.

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/24/2012 5:45 AM

I really think the victim here thought he was being robbed by an armed criminal at gun point. I think I too would fight for my life if a crazy man stuck a gun in my face in threatened to kill me.

Popo @ 3/24/2012 2:16 PM

I think Zimmerman is a loose cannon on the deck of life. I predict time behind bars in his future.

Mike @ 3/24/2012 4:29 PM

Zimmerman should have been held and given a blood alcohol test. From what I have heard on Foxnews and other media Zimmerman is the agressor and the cops uniforms are white.

R. G. Montgomery @ 3/24/2012 5:29 PM

Whatever the truth of the event, all the anti-gun goons will use this incident to a) brand all gun owners as irresponsible, and b) blame the castle doctrine for all self-defense shootings.

This event needs to be investigated and the Sharptons of both sides need to recuse themselves. Which will not happen, sadly.

Richard Jellicoe @ 3/24/2012 8:15 PM

I hate that this man killed this boy. Besides the obvious reasons it is going to make all people with CCW permits to be painted in this same brush. But I am sad to admit, a man or boy hiding behind a hoodie does raise my perception of a threat as much as a ski mask would

Dave M @ 3/24/2012 10:20 PM

"I hope someone sues the crap out of that Police Department because they screwed up big time."

How do you know that? Have you seen the entire investigative file? I doubt it.

You may be a leprechaun but you know nothing of the limits of police power. Unless you are driving a motor vehicle, police can not order you to take a drug test. Being intoxicated is not a crime unless driving. CCW may be different. The kids background is not spotless either. 10 day school suspension..? The media and others are driving this incident for their own agenda. A lot of people may end up looking very foolish if this comes out that Martin was the aggressor. If the Feds have anything on Zimmerman, they will indict him before the election. If they don't they have nothing.

jreb @ 3/25/2012 2:48 AM

Mike,

What, exactly, does the color of the cop's uniforms have to do with this incident? Is that supposed to be some kind of racial inference?

While this does APPEAR FROM MEDIA ACCOUNTS (which I take with a huge grain of salt) to be a bad shoot, I have never seen any evidence that there was ANY racial motivation. I see no reason for a Federal civil rights investigation.

tbow426 @ 3/25/2012 7:08 AM

If an officer is involved in a shooting then the best thing to do is "keep the mouth shut" until legal representation is obtained. Looks like the case here. Police expert says shooter sounded intoxicated. What about the adrenaline dump that makes people talk 100 mph per hour and sound like Donald Duck?! Expert??? (sarcasm intended) Cannot force a blood sample without a search warrant, but can ask. WE (cops) get tried and convicted by the media before the investigation is complete. Same thing is happening here because the "opinions" are based on media accounts.

Greg @ 3/26/2012 4:17 AM

Get your support Mummia T-Shirts here, get em' while they're hot...

I especially liked the vigilante tone of "self-appointed watchman"...He belonged to the Neighborhood Watch, they're not self-appointed, they're VOLUNTEERS!

A dispatcher "warned" him? Excuse me? He didn't call a dispatcher, he called 911, they can't tell him to do anything and didn't "warn" him. A police "expert" said he sounded intoxicated on a crappy quality tape...I think the expert is a small man who wanted his 5 minutes of fame and attention by the same media who support all the poor Black victims of evil Whites (even though Zimmerman is Hispanic the press and usual race pimps are labeling him as White---better hatred that way).

All in all, this is just a tria run for Obama's election...we'll be seeing his later in the year once the election gets nearer, there'll be a new and even more horrid Trayvon/Willie/Tawanna moment ginned up.

Tim @ 3/26/2012 4:57 AM

Well, I feel so much better that the NRA has explained everything to me... You Know, The same NRA that endorsed the foolish legislation in Indiana recently. They'll not ever get one thin dime from me again.

Dan Birdsley @ 3/26/2012 6:14 AM

to Ima Leprechaun: Here we have the NRA explaining a law they pushed. In my state, the Sheriff's Offices used to have discretion where they could have denied people like Zimmerman a weapon. Now, because of the NRA and the bloodstained cash they spent on our politicians, the Sheriff cannot deny a permit except for a very few federal disqualifiers. Remember, when the 2nd ammendment was drafted, there was no organized police to protect citizens. They all had to stand their ground or die.

Matt @ 3/26/2012 6:41 AM

I believe the "Stand Your Ground" law is valid where a person is accosted in a public place and defends themself with whatever is necessary to protect themself or another. However, if someone starts the fight and then the assaulted person gets the upper hand, I don't believe the "Stand Your Ground" law applies and deadly force would not be reasonable. That would be like saying a bank robber could use deadly force to defend himself against a guard or LEO who tries to stop the robbery.

The author of this article says "several facts have been established." One of those "facts" is that Zimmerman sounded intoxicated to an "expert." Without corroboration that statement is an OPINION, not a fact. If the police officers did not indicate Zimmerman appeared to be under the influence, or no field tests were conducted, there is no corroboration and the "expert" cannot state that as fact. I doubt the expert knows Zimmerman and how he normally talks so a statement like that would not be admissable.

Too many people are sticking their nose into this case including President Obama. To personalize this by saying if he had a son the kid would look like Trayvon was inappropriate and just fans the flames of protest and makes it appear he is taking a side in this.

If Zimmerman is found to be legitimately innocent of any wrong doing, it won't matter because the stage is now set for protests against such a finding. This is what happens when people don't let an investigation play out before stirring the hornet's nest.

Rob @ 3/27/2012 6:32 AM

I cannot agree with the actions of the shooter in the minutes leading up to the incident, but it is best to wait till the investigation has been completed and all the facts are laid out on the table. The first time I saw this on the news, I first thought that the shooter was going to hang. That's the way it was presented. Now I have my doubts. Remember a few short years ago when a politica agenda stated something to the effect of not letting a good crisis go to waste? We've had to endure a lot of that lately. Notice how fast it turned into backlash against the Second Amendment and Florida's law, as well as other issues. If this kid was murdered during a random act of street violence and the murder had been smart enough to get the heck out of the area and lay low, he'd have simply been another crime statistic and quickly forgotten.

TimFromLA @ 3/29/2012 2:14 PM

Now here is a question no one seems to ask, and I'm sure the LEOs would agree. But why is a lobbying group and not a government entity explaining what Stand Your Ground is? And now in Indiana you can kill a police officer: http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/IN/SB0001. So who profits from this? Walmart for one as they are the largest gun dealer in the nation and the NRA too.

Again I ask, why is the NRA explaining what the Stand Your Ground law is?

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