Florida House Authorizes Deadly Force for Street Altercations
At common law, a person has the right to use deadly force to protect himself from intruders in his own home. Known as "The Castle Doctrine," this principle is an exception to the general rule that a person is not justified in using deadly force unless retreat isn't possible and the use of force is the absolute last resort - i.e. before popping a cap into a some punk on the street that points a gun at you, you have the duty to first try to plead with your attacker and then to run away. The Castle Doctrine is based on the idea that "a man's home is his castle" and that someone who illegally enters your home leaves you no place to retreat to.
If my recollection serves me, the doctrine has been abandoned pretty much everywhere except in the United States. (e.g. I remember reading a while back that England has done away with it, preferring instead to value all human life, even that of the punk stealing your stereo at gunpoint, above all else. This has led to a great increase in the number of burglaries in England, but that's a topic for another article.)
It's important to note that the Castle Doctrine doesn't give you the right to off anyone that happens to stumble into your humble abode - the intruder still has to attack you, and you still have to be in fear of losing your life or suffering great bodily harm. It just removes your duty to first retreat before resorting to deadly force to defend yourself.
The Florida Legislature has overwhelmingly (94-20) passed a bill that removes the requirement that a person first attempt to retreat before using deadly force to protect themselves outside of their home, basically extending the Castle Doctrine to apply outiside of the proverbial castle. The 'Stand Your Ground Bill,' (HB 249 CS 2005) provides:
(3) A person, not engaged in an unlawful activity, who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so, to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, herself, or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. (emphasis added)
Supporters of the bill herald it as an important victim's rights tool. The sponsor of the bill, Republican Dennis Baxley, told the House, "I’m sorry people, but if I’m attacked I shouldn’t have a duty to retreat. That’s a good way to get shot in the back. ... This is about meeting force with force."
I have to agree with Rep. Baxley - I never could swallow the idea that I have a duty to run away from some punk that points a gun at me. It seem to me that when you decide to threaten the life of another, you've made a decision to put your own on the line. In other words, don't sit at the poker table if you can't pay the ante.
Fortunately for Florida residents, soon everyone will be playing with their own chips.
Despite its overwhelming support in the Legislature, the bill has its share of critics as well:
Critics have objected saying it gives gun owners a licence to kill. They also warn that it could lead to racially motivated killings and promote deadly escalations of arguments.
Both of these are terrible arguments - the only people that this bill authorizes the use of force against are those putting others in reasonable apprehension of death or great bodily harm. It isn't a license to kill, it's a license to protect yourself. And it's a warning to thugs and criminals throughout Florida: "The law isn't on your side. Not anymore."
Posted by jkhat at April 6, 2005 04:32 PM
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|# April 6th, 2005 4:46 PM james|
|I was surprised to learn that the Florida House is composed of
and who says the democratic party is falling apart? ;-)
|# April 6th, 2005 7:31 PM kris|
|that criticism of the bill is just ridiculous. no one is suddenly go to say, "hey, i should start packing heat now that i can shoot punks before i run away!". In fact, if you asked ten people, i bet that nine of the them thought it was already legal to shoot people who threaten you with a weapon.
i don't think this law changes anything. it just prevents some overzealous DA from prosecuting a citizen who successfully defends himself AND, as James said, sends a message that the law with not protect criminals at the expense of law-abiding citizens.
|# April 7th, 2005 12:37 AM cheeseandbacon|
|If you live in florida and are worried about this law, MAYBE YOU SHOULDN'T BE UNLAWFULLY ATTACKING PEOPLE!!!
I don't really see why anyone would be worried about this unless they are the ones who can potentially be harmed by this, IE: Criminals who brutally attack others.
|# April 7th, 2005 10:39 AM jonts|
|Some sloppy research here- or an argument based on poor foundations:
"This has led to a great increase in the number of burglaries in England"
This is WRONG, burgalary rates have been falling.
Now, i realise your audience is mostly rightwing- but surely at least the editors of this web page should use the facts instead of using some alternate fantasy 'rgihtwing world' facts that you wish were reality.
|# April 7th, 2005 10:54 AM james|
|thanks, jonts, i always enjoy your condecending comments. i normally prefer to not respond and to instead sit back and savor them, taking in a full measure of their self-righteous goodness. however, this time i'll break that rule.
"[england has done away with the castle doctrine] ... This has led to a great increase in the number of burglaries in England"
the website you cite says:
In the year ending March 2004, the total number of domestic burglary offences was 943,000, according to the British Crime Survey. This is 42% lower than in 1997 and nearly 27% lower than in 1999.
what the website you cite DOESN'T say, however, is when the castle doctrine was done away with in england, and what the effect on crime was.
me: "X was passed 100 years ago causing Y to go up"
you: "but Y went down last year!! hahaha! you live in a right wing fantasy world!!"
|# April 7th, 2005 11:08 AM BVBigBro|
|Burglaries have not gone up in England, at least not recently. The rate of burglaries is, however, far higher in England and wales than in the USA. |
|# April 7th, 2005 12:40 PM JohnTant|
|A couple of points about the British Crime Survey and how it's being used here.
They aren't official police statistics. Instead they ask 40,000 people every year whether they were the victims of crime, and apply those results to the population. As it's a survey, it's subject to the same poll weaknesses every other poll has. I'm not saying this survey significantly suffers from any weaknesses (mainly because I haven't taken the time to dissect the methodology), but it's a salient fact to disclose when you're using these numbers. These are estimates...not actual numbers.
Second, I think the point made by James holds.
If you look at Appendix A of the 1998 BCS (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hosb2198.pdf), you'll see 1997 estimated burglaries at 1,639,000. When you look at 1981 they were estimated at 750,000.
Per the 2004 report, there were 943,000 estimated burglaries (cited in a previous post).
So when your base year is 1997, yeah you'll show a huge decrease. But look at it from a longer perspective, and the rates are actually up. I wonder if the Home Office isn't fudging things a little bit with their selection of 1997 as a base year?
|# April 27th, 2005 12:52 PM pKai|
|Kris is right. Most people I know down here thought this was already the lawl and were surprised to hear there was a "duty to retreat".
Such a decision should me made on the spot depending on circumstances. Sometimes it may make sense to run away and sometimes trying to run away will get you killed.
There should be no law restricting the killing of the guy (or girl) that is trying to kill you......
To my British friends above I say.... your government is handing your country to the criminals and thugs they cannot protect you from. Someone that breaks the law for a living will not be deterred by one more gun law. In 10 years when criminals rule your streets, either the police will have to outnumber the citizenry or your government will be over here buying guns (probably in Florida!!!) to give away to the law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.....