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.
Mississippi has a stand your ground law that removes the duty to retreat before using deadly force in defense of oneself or another as long as the person is not the initial aggressor and is in a place they have a right to be. 2 Mississippi law also states that “the killing of a human being” is justifiable “in resisting” certain property crimes. 3
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- American Bar Association, “National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws: Report and Recommendations,” (September 2015): 1.[↩]
- Miss. Code. Ann. § 97-3-15(4).[↩]
- Mississippi law states that “the killing of a human being” is justifiable “in resisting” another person from committing a felony in the immediate premises of a dwelling, vehicle, or place of business or employment occupied by the person using such lethal force. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-15(e). Olier v. Bailey, 164 So.3d 982, 994 (Miss. 2015) (“Landowners in this State are permitted to use lethal force to resist attempts “to commit any felony . . . upon or in any dwelling . . . or in the immediate premises thereof in which such a person shall be.”); Westbrook v. State, 29 So.3d 828, 833 (Miss.App. 2009). Theft of property valued at or over $1,000 is a felony. Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-41.[↩]