Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground

I was watching the following video from Andrew Branca at the Law of Self Defense and wanted to do a distillation for my classes (and anyone else that’s interested in self-protection).

Elements of Self-Defense

There are five elements that have to be present for a claim of “Self-Defense” to be valid:

  • Innocence
  • Imminence
  • Reasonableness
  • Proportionality
  • Avoidance

I’m not going to go into the elements here, but since we’re talking about “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” we’ll be discussing Avoidance.


Avoidance simply means you attempted to extricate yourself, safely, from a situation before using force. In the US there are only 11 states that impose a “duty to retreat” (watch the video for the list – and no, California isn’t one of them surprisingly enough).

“Stand Your Ground”

So-called legal experts will throw around the term stand your ground as if it’s something you’d actually claim in court – NO – stand your ground is an exception under self-defense law.

Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine simply add some exceptions that state you don’t have a duty to retreat (and in some states even prevent the prosecution from bringing up a failure to retreat) providing certain things are true.

Castle Doctrine says that you don’t have a duty to retreat while in your residence (a residence could be your car – provided you’re in it, a hotel room, or even your place of business/employment, again depending on your state). There are considerations such as they can’t have been invited, and must be showing signs of posing imminent bodily danger (like trying to break open a storm door).

Stand Your Ground says that you don’t have a duty to retreat while in a public place that you have a right to be. This does come with other considerations such as not committing illegal acts.

Again these can all vary depending on jurisdiction.

An Iron Clad Defense?

There are legal “experts” that will claim that these stand your ground exceptions need to be done away with because they don’t allow for prosecution – which is total horsesh*t (and prosecutors know this, but politics and general public ignorance).

What stand your ground and castle doctrine exceptions do is remove the requirement that you took any safely available avenue of retreat before engaging in use of force – providing you’re in your home or somewhere in public you’re allowed to be and doing anything illegal.

The other four elements of a self-defense claim still have to be present, that’s still four targets for a prosecutor to tear down your claim and send you to jail (and they only have to get rid of one target!).

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