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

Author

Paul Clinton
Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.

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As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.

View Bio
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