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Stand Your Ground & Castle Laws

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  • Fred O'Malley
    • Apr 2013
    • 173510

    Stand Your Ground & Castle Laws

    Just a year after Florida enacted the country's first "stand-your-ground" laws, Louisiana took steps to add similar language into its criminal statutes. While markedly similar to the laws that played a significant role in the case surrounding acquitted Trayvon Martin-shooter George Zimmerman, Florida's law differs from those in the Pelican State in a few key ways.


    Long before Louisiana took steps to enact its own stand your ground laws in 2006, it had in place strict "castle laws." These statutes allow any Louisianian to use force, deadly or otherwise, to protect oneself on his or her property, or "castle." The protection is applicable to both one's home and car.

    Specifically, before 2006 the law said the use of force was justifiable when preventing an offense against one's personal safety or the safety of one's property, but only if the amount of forced used was "reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent such offense."

    The law also stated homicide was justifiable in similar cases: when committed in self-defense by one who "reasonably believes" he is in danger of great bodily harm or death; to prevent a forcible felony; and to prevent trespass on private property.

    The justifiable homicide statute did and does not apply, however, to those who use deadly force while in the process of selling drugs.


    In 2006, legislation introduced by then state Rep. Eric LaFleur added the "stand your ground" provisions to Louisiana's castle laws. All previous castle law provisions remained in place.

    After the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the new self-defense laws included multiple new provisions:

    Any person "who is in a place where he or she has a right," including a public space, does not have an obligation "to retreat" if faced with a real or perceived threat and "may stand his or her ground and meet force with force."
    During criminal court proceedings, a judge or jury can't consider the "possibility of retreat" as a factor in determining whether someone lawfully used force in self-defense.
    No one acting in self-defense under these laws can be civilly prosecuted for the use of force, deadly or otherwise.

    This language, almost identical to Florida's stand your ground law, was added to both the general use of force statute and the justifiable homicide statute. Lafleur, now a state senator, said the language was proposed by the National Rifle Association.


    Over 20 states have instituted stand your ground laws since Florida introduced its law in 2005.

    Here is Florida's stand your ground law, as it deals with justifiable homicide:
    "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and 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 or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

    Here is Louisiana's stand your ground law, found in the justifiable homicide and use of force statutes:

    "A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force."

    Pete Adams, Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorney Association, said there are key distinctions between the law in Louisiana and that on the books in Florida.

    First, Louisiana's law specifically states an aggressor cannot claim self-defense in the use of force.

    In a practical sense, if someone in Louisiana initiates an aggressive act, such as a fight, then begins losing that fight, he can't then pull out a gun and shoot the other party and claim self-defense unless he first proves that he either withdrew from the fight or made it clear he wanted to withdraw.

    Florida also has such an "aggressor clause" but it includes language allowing the aggressor to claim self-defense if he or she believes he is in danger of great bodily harm or death and if he or she has exhausted "every reasonable means to escape."

    Louisiana's aggressor statute only states: "A person who is the aggressor or who brings on a difficulty cannot claim the right of self-defense unless he withdraws from the conflict in good faith and in such a manner that his adversary knows or should know that he desires to withdraw and discontinue the conflict."

    Dan Zelenka, President of the Louisiana Shooting Association and a lawyer in New Orleans, agreed. "You can't claim self-defense if the other person was just a better fighter," he said Thursday. "I don't think when the tables turn on the aggressor and he begins losing the fight, that he can use deadly force and still claim self-defense."

    Second, the laws in Florida and Louisiana differ on another important aspect -- the ability and necessity of law enforcement to investigate justifiable homicide and use of force cases.

    In Florida, if the police investigate a "stand your ground" case and the investigation results in costs or legal fees, the police are required to pay those fees if the person in question was found to have been in the right under the law.

    Not so in Louisiana, where there is no such statute that places the cost burden on law enforcement. Additionally, a law passed in 2012, spearheaded by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, made it legally required for police and coroners to investigate these cases.
    Both Florida and Louisiana's laws require jury explanation of the state's self-defense, castle and stand your ground laws when applicable in a legal trial.


    It would be impossible to ever fully answer this question. While police would have been legally bound to investigate the matter, it is not clear how a Louisiana jury would have reacted to a presumably different prosecution strategy.

    But what is known is the statutes used by the defense would almost assuredly be the same. Both Louisiana and Florida's self-defense statutes are driven by the language "no duty to retreat" and "stand your ground and meet force with force."

    All else equal, if the trial of George Zimmerman had taken place in Louisiana, similar laws would have been applicable and the state would have had the same burden of proof to show it wasn't a "reasonable" assumption to think Zimmerman's life was in danger.

    "Assuming furthermore, as the jury apparently did, Zimmerman believed he was in fear for his life or great bodily harm, so he would've had the right under Louisiana law to use deadly force, just as in Florida," the Ville Platte Democrat said, calling the Martin shooting "a tragic incident."

    Zelenka also highlighted the importance of jury findings on the case, saying public outcry with the Zimmerman verdict should lie with the prosecution and not the jury.

    "The reality is that (people) should just respect the jury's verdict," Zelenka said Thursday. "Fact-finding is sacrosanct."

    Judge Scott Crichton of the First Judicial District in Caddo Parish, who teaches a Second Amendment course in his spare time, agreed that huge responsibilities are placed on the shoulders of the police, grand juries, the attorney general and district attorneys in determining if these cases are even heard.

    The Shreveport judge said that regardless of the outcome in the Zimmerman trial, the public must remember that law enforcement urged the neighborhood watchman to walk away. He said in no way does Florida, or Louisiana, statute recommend that citizens take the law into their own hands.

    "We (police, judges and district attorneys) recommend not 'self-help,' but rather contacting law enforcement and handling this problem within the system," said Crichton. "So we don't have a tragedy out there."


    € A grand jury decided in February that Houma resident Byron Thomas, 21, wouldn't stand trial in the shooting death of Jamonta Miles, 15, because Thomas had acted in self-defense. Thomas shot Miles after an altercation began when Miles and six other teens attempted to buy marijuana from Thomas, according to Houma Today. The grand jury did not consider the drug offense statute of the stand your ground law in their decision.

    € A Donald Aaron was found guilty of negligent homicide in the 2005 shooting death of Ronald Jamison in Caddo Parish. Upon arriving home, Aaron found Jamison in his driveway. Aaron said he believed Jamison had burglarized his home. When Jamison reached into his pocket to grab a beer bottle, Aaron opened fire, shooting him seven times.

    Aaron said he was in the right to shoot Jamison under the state's castle laws. The grand jury disagreed, charging him with manslaughter. A trial jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of negligent homicide and a gun offense. He was sentenced to five years hard labor without parole.

    Links to docs in original:
    Government is a DISEASE - FREEDOM is the CURE
    Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is watching.
    Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.Bertrand Russell, Why Men Fight

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