As usual, I am not a lawyer, jus somebody who reads law and might have an interpretation of it. Grain of Salt recommended.
From its earliest times, the law of self-defense has included an important exception. When one under attack knows he can escape from danger by retreating, without risking further danger to herself, he must retreat. Like the law against homicide, the rule of retreat attempts to avoid unnecessary death – even the death of an unlawful attacker – unless the circumstances present no alternative. The rule of retreat is itself subject to an exception: the rule has almways applied everywhere except in the home of the person under attack. This exception to the rule of retreat, known as the castle doctrine, makes sense: the home is the last and final place to which one could retreat. Thus a victim never had to retreat from an attacker in her own home; she could stand and fight back.
SYG laws change this ancient legal landscape in a fundamental way. SYG laws abolish the rule of retreat in any place the person defending herself has a right to be. Put another way, SYG laws take the rule of retreat from the home and extend it into public places. A person under unjustified attack in a public place need not retreat, even if she knows she can get away in complete safety; she can stand her ground, and even use deadly force if she faces deadly force
These are the words of David A. Harris, Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law University of Pittsburgh during the United States Commission on Civil Rights on this past October 17. By now the readers of this blog are well aware that Stand Your Ground is not something that the NRA cooked up in last decade and poured over Florida but a well established principle with Supreme Court decisions over 100 years old ( Beard v. United States – 158 U.S. 550 (1895) and Brown v. United States, 256 U.S. 335 (1921) )
But there is more:
This “no retreat in public” idea is the central feature of Florida’s SYG law. The Florida law also gives criminal and civil immunity to one claiming an SYG defense. When the killer makes an SYG claim, police cannot immediately arrest, detain, charge or prosecute, as they usually would. Police and prosecutors may investigate, utilizing “standard procedures,” but they cannot arrest unless the agency “determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.”
He makes it sound like you can stand, knife in hand on top of a mound of dead babies, shout “Stand Your Ground!” and you cannot be touched. Nothing farther from the truth. Immunity from prosecution is not a legal olly olly oxen free that let’s you walk out of a crime scene without any worry in the world. In order to claim immunity from prosecution, the four tenets for Self-Defense still must be present: Innocence, Immediacy, Reasonableness and Proportionality. f these conditions are not present, you can claim SYG/Immunity till your face turn green and you will still be riding in the back of a cruiser wearing steel bracelets.
What many confuse with a Free Pass is actually Florida Statutes 776.032 (2) which states: A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use or threatened use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using or threatening to use force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used or threatened was unlawful. What we have is that if you used deadly force/Homicide to defend yourself, you cannot automatically be arrested for the use of such force when the evidence says otherwise even if Use of Deadly Force/Homicide is against the law because there is enough information to initially support an extenuating circumstance: Justifiable Homicide. The law does not say that the police should stop investigating altogether and let the person investigated go home and collect $200 but that they continue to do so till they can find evidence contrary to the initial findings or they are satisfied that the initial assessment of self-defense is confirmed.
So why are we still having these silly arguments about SYG and Immunity from prosecution? In my opinion it is mostly a political narrative based on prosecutors disliking the fact that power has been taken away from them (mostly because a history or prosecutorial misconduct) and they resent that. Those interested in the elimination of SYG, added a few shakes of implied racism by claiming that SYG unfairly targets minorities, specially blacks (but they forget to add that the biggest recipient of SYG benefits have been blacks) and we have us a faux uproar based on nothing.
But that a supposed scholar like Professor Harris repeats the same old stupidity that we expect from our local news rags and political hacks, makes you think he is not a worthy recipient of the position at his school. That he does it by sheer ignorance or conscious choice is to be determined.