Self-defense laws in the US typically justify a person’s use of lethal force in public in situations where lethal force was necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm to themselves or another person. Traditionally, these laws have been clear that taking human life is not necessary, and is therefore not justified, if the person could have avoided using lethal violence by retreating, or simply stepping away from a confrontation. A person does not have a duty to retreat from a conflict before using force in their home, however (known as the Castle Doctrine).1
Stand your ground laws upend centuries of legal tradition, allowing a person to use deadly force in self-defense in public, even if that force can be safely avoided by retreating or when nonlethal force would suffice.
Arizona has a stand your ground law which removes the duty to retreat in any place where a person “may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act.”2 Arizona’s law also authorizes the use of deadly force to prevent burglary of unoccupied residential structures.3
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- American Bar Association, “National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws: Report and Recommendations,” (September 2015): 1.
- Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-405(B); 13-411(B).
- Arizona law authorizes use of deadly force to prevent first or second degree burglary, which is defined to include unlawful entry into a residential structure with intent to commit a theft, whether the residential structure is occupied or not. Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-411; 13-1507-08; 13-1501.