There has been no bigger legal issue placed under the microscope in the previous months than Florida's new "stand your ground" law. Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard the name Trayvon Martin. He was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, after the two encountered each other on the street one evening. According to Florida's new law, a person is justified in using force against another when the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend himself against another person's imminent use of unlawful force. However, if a person reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm, he or she may use deadly force for protection from that harm or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
Originally, the ability to use deadly force only applied in your own home. However, Florida's law expanded the privilege to your car and any location one is legally permitted to be without having to first retreat. In the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman argues that he was justified in killing Trayvon Martin because he reasonably believed it was necessary to prevent his being killed or harmed. The Florida courts will sort out the sticky legal issue in the coming months.
As a Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney, let me tell you what this mean to us in Pittsburgh? Well, recent legislation in Pennsylvania extended very similar rights to Pennsylvanians. Therefore, if you feel that deadly force is necessary to protect yourself, your family or others while in your home, your car, or in any other location you rightfully stand, you can stand your ground and use that force. While none of us ever hopes to be in such a situation, Pennsylvania has given us the option to use deadly force to protect ourselves and loved ones. Will the Pennsylvania courts be the next to tackle a Trayvon Martin-like controversy? Only time will tell.