Thursday, April 5, 2012

This is My Castle!

The case of George Zimmerman and Trevon Martin has gained massive amounts of media attention in very little time. The argument that Zimmerman shot Trevon in self defense has brought up concerns about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and the Castle Doctrine.  The right to self defense and to defend ones property has been a founding principle of our country. I would argue that America, more than any other country, has a pervasive tradition of self reliance for personal defense rather than reliance on police authorities.  During the argument of the Trevon Martin case many people have said that the stand your ground law and the castle doctrine are outdated laws that allow murderers to go free from prosecution much as George Zimmerman has yet to be charged with a crime after shooting Trevon Martin.  So the question that we have today is if there is still a place for laws such as the Castle Doctrine and the Stand Your Ground law. Should we as citizens still have the responsibility to make the decision that we should take another’s life? After all its not the wild west anymore, we have Apple Computers and legalized gay marriage, we are civilized. Does the social contract of our society stipulate that we give up the power to defend ourselves? Surprisingly while looking up social contract on Wikipedia the second sentence seemed to speak to the subject of this article. It said, “Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.” This statement would suggest that it is not our duty to retreat, but rather to protect ourselves and others from violence. So why are some people saying that it’s our duty to retreat instead of protects ourselves? Should we be more concerned with what happens to violent criminals than with defending ourselves? If a criminal breaks into our home should we run away or stand and fight? The issue is very polarized. Some people believe that we should never have the power to take someone elses life even in the most extreme case, that we should just call the police and let them handle it. Other people seem to think that if a criminal gets killed it’s their own fault for being a criminal. People in support if the castle doctrine have even created a website that sells T-shirts and bumper stickers.
To support an informed discussion I it would be helpful to know exactly what the law says in regards to self defense and the Castle Doctrine.
(720 ILCS 5/7-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 7-1)
Sec. 7-1. Use of force in defense of person.
(a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.

The statute for defense of a dwelling reads much the same except that a person only has to believe a person is committing a felony, not a forcible felony.
            Many people lack the understanding of the issue to make an educated decision about whether use of force is justified. Some people will say things like “They started it, now I’m gonna finish it!”. But this doesn’t reflect the true intent of the law. The intent is to allow people the safety and security that we have come to expect from our society. These laws are not meant to let people of the hook for murder like people are saying happened in Florida. I for one am much happier knowing that if the worst case scenario does happen and I kill someone in defense of myself or my home that I don’t have to worry about criminal prosecution. I’m curious about what other criminal justice majors think. Do you feel like this is a common sense law or one brought about only by the gun lobby? Will these laws make it more dangerous for law enforcement personnel out on the street? Only time and research will tell.


  1. I think this is one of the best laws that we have! If someone is threatening me or my family, you better believe I could blow them away. It is our right to protect ourselves, and people that believe it isn't obviously have not had their life threatened before. I will say one thing though, it does depend on the circumstance. If you have some drunk college kid accidently come into your house and want to pee because he thinks he is at home, then probably not the best idea to shoot him. All circumstances are different, but if someone broke into my house and threatened my life, I would not just stand there and be like, "oh hold on a second while I call 911."

  2. I am a very strange bird when it comes to some issues. I don't fall into party lines. On some issues I am very conservative minded and others very liberal leaning. I think these laws are very important to have. The problem with calling 911 is that it is a very reactive process. If you or your family are in immediate danger then calling 911 is not a viable way to handle the situation. There is a difference between killing someone and murdering someone. I think there are situations where killing someone is alright but there are no situations where murdering someone is ok. There was a Navy Chaplain that spoke to my unit about this difference right before my first Iraq deployment. It was a very powerful and informative speech. It helped a lot of people with religious hesitation about killing to see the difference and allow them to perform their duty as Marines if necessary. I think the distinction between the two needs to be brought up and people need to be educated on the difference. I bet all the opponents of these laws would be singing a different tune if it was their family that was being threatened.

  3. I think that the Castle and Stand your Ground Laws are helpful. They just need more law behind it. What I mean by this is that, if a person is murdered by a person who is claiming self-defense.The person who claimed self-defense should always and still be seen in front of a court of law. I think these cases should be viewed longer than a day or two. Life is a very precious and every human deserve the right to a fair trial, and justice for all. Castle doctrine is great but just careful investigation to make a the right choices.

  4. I totally agree with the castle doctrine. If someone is breaking into your home and there is a threat to you and your family, you should have the right to protect yourself. If people want to make the case that these criminals who break and enter other peoples homes should not be getting shot at, I can't help but ask, what were they doing inside someone else's house anyway? Its their own fault for breaking the law and threatening someone in their own home. I think it is a law that needs to exist in order for people to truly be safe in their own homes. Great post

  5. I agree with the castle doctrine. If someone was trying to break into my house then I think I should be able to defend myself. But, I think you should only use a certain amount of force. If someone breaks into your house and is not armed then you shouldn't shoot them.