Rep. Aaron Pilkington today filed a bill to enact a so-called “stand your ground” law, which would expand the circumstances under which a person could use deadly force in defense of self or others, even if there was an option to exit the situation without resorting to violence.
Under current law in Arkansas, a person may not use deadly force in self defense “if the person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force” by safely retreating from the situation. This duty to retreat does not apply under current law when a person is at home; under the so-called “castle doctrine,” Arkansas law already allows citizens to, for example, shoot a trespasser in the home who is a violent threat even if they could avoid doing so by retreating.
Pilkington’s bill would expand the “stand your ground” territory beyond the home to “any location where the person is lawfully present.” It explicitly states that a person acting in defense of self or another “is not required to retreat before using deadly physical force” — so long as the lawfully present person is not engaging in criminal activity and did not provoke the other person.
The bill eliminates all current provisions that describe retreating to avoid the need for deadly force. It further codifies that such a possibility cannot be considered in making a determination about whether use of deadly force was lawful: “In determining whether a person reasonably believed that the use of deadly physical force was necessary, a finder of fact may not consider whether the person failed to retreat.” For example, juries might need to be instructed that they are prohibited from considering a failure to withdraw from the situation in determining whether or not someone acted in self-defense.
Pilkington’s bill also makes some additions regarding the circumstances under which deadly force in defense of a person would be justified under the law. Under current law, deadly force is justified if a person “reasonably believes” that the other person is:
(1) Committing or about to commit a felony involving physical force or violence; (2) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force; or (3) Imminently endangering the person’s life or imminently about to victimize the person as described in § 9-15-103 from the continuation of a pattern of domestic abuse.
Pilkington’s bill would codify that a belief that one of those circumstances applied would be “presumed to be reasonable” if someone is “unlawfully and with physical force” attempting to enter another person’s home or vehicle or attempting to remove someone from his or her home or vehicle.
At least 25 states have legislatively enacted “stand your ground” laws. Here’s a good recent CNN rundown on controversies that have erupted in “stand your ground” states like Florida when altercations in public spaces turned deadly.