Yahoo News explains: Why is Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law so controversial?

Kate Murphy
Producer

“Stand your ground” laws generally state that individuals can use force to defend themselves against threats without first trying to escape from the danger.

These types of laws have received a lot of national attention, particularly in Florida.

In July, police say Michael Drejka fatally shot Markeis McGlockton. who shoved and knocked Drejka to the ground in an argument over a parking spot in Florida. A Florida sheriff initially decided not to charge Drejka, citing the state’s “stand your ground” law. The decision sparked criticism and calls for reform. On Monday, Florida prosecutors reversed that decision and charged Drejka with manslaughter.

The statute was also a subject of scrutiny when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Most states have some form of self-defense laws, and at least 25 states have “stand your ground” laws that have no “duty to retreat,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Why are Florida’s “stand your ground” laws so controversial?

Most self-defense laws state that a person has a “duty to retreat” if they think someone is trying to harm or kill them. If the threat persists, then they can use deadly force. Florida’s law states that a person is under no obligation to retreat before using deadly force if they’re threatened with physical injury or death.

Not all “stand your ground” laws provide immunity from criminal prosecution and civil actions — but Florida’s law does provide that immunity.

There was also a recent change in Florida’s law that shifts the burden of proof from the defense to the prosecution. Prosecutors now have to prove that a shooter did not act in self-defense and is not entitled to immunities under the “stand your ground” law.