State v. George Zimmerman (Pre-Trial) > Self-Defense and Stand Your Ground

SYG and Duty to Retreat, by State


Eugene Volokh, 7/17/13

--- Quote ---People are talking about how common “stand your ground” states are compared to “duty to retreat” states, so I thought I’d do a bit of looking to see the current head count. . . . As best I can tell, the current rule is that 19 states (plus D.C.) fall in the duty to retreat category . . . All the other states do not impose a duty to retreat. The rule in federal cases seems to be ambiguous.

This oversimplifies matters somewhat (Pennsylvania, for instance, imposes a duty to retreat only when the person whom the defendant is defending against has not displayed a “weapon readily or apparently capable of lethal use”); and I might have erred in classifying one or two states in either direction, since this is the result of a few hours’ worth of research and has not been fully cite-checked. Still, I think this reflects the general pattern:

1. The substantial majority view among the states, by a 31-19 margin, is no duty to retreat. . . .
--- End quote ---

Commenter Denny Strickland

--- Quote ---I think there is a false narrative being spread. First that Stand your ground laws are in the minority and only "backwards" states have them, and two that we used to be an entirely duty to retreat country and stand your ground was a recent invention. They do the first by only counting the states that are stand your ground by statute, and they do the second by pretending all those states were duty to retreat states prior to the statute being passed.
--- End quote ---

I think Strickland's point bears repeating. If some states are effectively SYG by case law, counting only states that 'have SYG laws' will understate the prevalence of SYG.


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