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Things to know about stand your ground laws and criminal defense

After Trayvon Martin was shot by an armed community watch volunteer, Stand Your Ground laws were thrust into the national media spotlight. It quickly became apparent that the laws put in place to allow citizens to defend themselves were confusing, and that many people had vastly different interpretations of what was and was not legal. Even if the outcome is not as tragic as the Martin case, many in Georgia who use force to protect themselves should understand the basics of this law and how it may impact criminal defense.

There are three main schools of thought and laws that states adhere to with regard to self-protection. First, some states have laws that hold its citizens to a "Duty to Retreat" doctrine, which says that a person must retreat from an imminent safety threat as much as possible before responding with force. Other states abide by the "Castle Doctrine," which states that a person can respond to a threat with force without retreating when challenged in his or her home, workplace or, in some cases, automobile. Finally, yet other states have adopted "Stand Your Ground" legislation, which allows people, under specific circumstances, to use force to defend themselves without attempting to retreat first.

Stand Your Ground laws differ from Castle Doctrine laws in that they are not limited to a person's private home, vehicle or work. Georgia has passed "stand your ground" legislation. Georgia law states that a person has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force, including deadly force in defense of life or property other than where they habitate.

Though the state of Georgia has clearly stated laws regarding this topic, citizens could still potentially face weapons charges and other felonies if they were to use force in self-defense under certain circumstances. Most in Georgia who find themselves charged with crimes reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney who is well-versed in criminal defense litigation can assist clients in evaluating their cases, ensuring their rights are protected and building the strongest defense possible.

Source: FindLaw, "Stand Your Ground Laws", Accessed on Oct. 17, 2016

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