“Stand your ground” laws are among the most hotly debated current criminal law issues, stemming from the George Zimmerman trial several years ago. A “stand your ground” law is a law that allows you to use deadly force to defend yourself against an attacker without the duty to retreat. Different approaches to this law exist in different jurisdictions. Criminal defense attorneys and defendants are sometimes puzzled by the arbitrary nature of where these laws are and are not implemented. A person a mile away in a neighboring state might go to prison for standing their ground where a person in another state would be completely exonerated by a “stand your ground” law. After all, a person confronted with a violent attack will often react in the way best suited to defend themselves, regardless of what their state’s policy is on the law.

It’s important to understand the laws in Minnesota in order to know your rights, so in this blog post, we will be discussing the “stand your ground” law as it relates to our state. If you or someone you know is in need of legal representation, contact our criminal law firm in Minnesota now.

Jurisdictional Differences

Castle Doctrine

Most states follow the castle doctrine. The castle doctrine is the concept that you can use deadly force with no duty to retreat within your own home. Basically, the castle doctrine is a “stand your ground” law that applies when you are in your own home. Generally, a person can only use the castle doctrine when they are in fear of bodily harm. They cannot set deadly traps or otherwise act with deadly force to defend their property.  Minnesota does follow the castle doctrine, although it only applies to spaces exclusive to the person claiming the use of the castle doctrine, excluding places like apartment hallways and common areas.

The concept behind this approach is that a person is the king of their own castle, or home, and they should not be burdened with a duty to retreat when they fear for their life in their own home. This approach also punishes and discourages violent home invasions.

Duty to Retreat

The duty to retreat is the inverse of “stand your ground”. It places a duty on a person to take any reasonable opportunity to retreat before resulting in deadly force to fend off a deadly attack. A person that fights back instead of retreating can face serious criminal charges. Minnesota follows the duty to retreat rule.

Proponents of duty to retreat laws argue that lives are saved by preventing violent confrontations. Some even argue that “stand your ground” laws allow for a legal racial bias, where innocent behavior is misinterpreted as threatening because of racial stereotypes.

Stand Your Ground

As noted above, “stand your ground” laws allow a person to fight back when attacked, even when faced with an opportunity to retreat from the attack. It should be noted that the amount of force used to defend must be commensurate with the force used to attack – a slap cannot be met with a shotgun. At the time of this publication, 25 states have implemented “stand your ground” laws.

Legislation is regularly introduced to change Minnesota to a “stand your ground” state, showing that there is at least some support in the state for this approach. A stand your ground bill gained significant traction before failing to pass during the 2017 legislative session.

Reasons for “stand your ground” laws are varied. Some guns rights activists believe that stand your ground laws would make the public safer by deterring criminal attacks and allowing people every opportunity to fight back when facing an attack. Others argue that a person shouldn’t have to choose between defending themselves and going to prison.

Be sure to get ahold of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are facing criminal charges. If you are currently in need of a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota or Wisconsin, contact Karalus Law today.