The Stand Your Ground Law and The Routine Activity Theory
The Stand Your Ground Lawand the Routine Activity Theory Cathy Clark
Thesis StatementSince the enactment of "Stand Your Ground" laws and similarstatutes around the country, self defense claims invoking justifiablehomicide under the statute have increased astronomically" According to state crime stats, Florida averaged 12 ―justifiablehomicide‖ deaths a year from 2000-2004. After ―Stand your Ground‖was passed in 2005, the number of ―justifiable‖ deaths has almosttripled to an average of 35 a year, an increase of 283% from 2005-2010." (CBS Miami, March 20,2012) These alarming statistics havebrought the statute under scrutiny and created a fire storm of dialogueconcerning whether this law should be modified, repealed or left in itscurrent verbiage. Does this law support or disprove the RoutineActivity Theory?
Three Major Points1. The ―Stand Your Ground‖ provision, is unnecessary because of standing Castle Doctrine and Self defense laws. It only increases the opportunity for individuals to take the law into their own hands and removes the obligation to retreat when possible.2. It does not take into account public areas that others have a right to occupy and encourages lethal confrontations. The law proves that criminal behavior will increase when laws become less restrictive.3. It gives civilians an unfair protection from homicide investigations and trials that licensed and trained law enforcement does not enjoy. Also, statistics show that Stand Your Ground is racially slanted against minorities, creating an environment for legal lynchings. Minorities have less power and influence to create laws, therefore the laws created by the majority work against them.
The Law Says… The 2012 Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 776 CRIMES JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE 776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.• History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1188, ch. 97-102; s. 2, ch. 2005-27.
The Routine Activity Theory• The Routine Activity Theory was developed by Marcus Felson in conjunction with Lawrence Cohen in 1979.• The term routine carried two meanings. Most important, it was a technical term that referred to the ―everyday activities‖ that people in society followed – when and where they worked, attended school, recreated, and stayed home.• More implicit, the term routine meant to imply the mundane in life, not the special or abnormal. Cohen and Felson were calling attention to the fact that the amount of crime was influenced not by the pathological features of society but rather by it’s normal organization. (Lilly,2011)
Summary of Cohen and Felson’s Routine Activity TheoryElements of a Crime Definition Key Criminology PointMotivated Offender Person who has the Most traditional theories of crime explain propensity or inclination to why some people are motivated to offend. offend. They do not examine the elements of criminal opportunity, which involve a target and guardian. Suitable Target An object - person or A crime cannot take place without a suitable property - that the offender victim. Suitable can mean attractiveness in would like to take or the sense that the object can provide reward control. (e.g., money) or be transported (e.g., a computer versus a refrigerator).Absence of a Capable Guardians can be friends or The absence of guardians allows crime. The Guardian family, security personnel, presence of guardians prevents crime. or dogs. A person can be a guardian of his or her own person or property. (Lilly, 2011)
Castle Doctrine Laws• Castle Doctrine Laws already give citizens the right to protect their domicile, home or residence. There is no duty to retreat, nor is there any criminal penalty for using deadly force to protect the occupants or contents of that property.• There are already ―Self Defense‖ laws on the books that allow a person to defend themselves from imminent harm.• Furthermore, the "Stand Your Ground" statute hinders the normal course of an investigation by stating in section 776.032(2) of the statute, ―[a] law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.‖ (FL Statute, 776, 2011). Unfortunately, when its the perpetrators word against a deceased victim, probable cause usually does not exist.
Common Areas―Stand Your Ground‖ Laws do not protect the person who is killed ina common area by a person who claims to feel threatened. Thereare no rights for the victim and they are not alive to tell their side ofthe story. (An unarmed victim)Furthermore, the shooter has no duty or requirement to retreat, evenif the person with whom they had an altercation with, tries to flee.The shooter can still shoot a fleeing combatant with protectionunder the law. Additionally, the shooter is not responsible for anyinnocent or ―uninvolved‖ bystanders that may be injured or killed in ashoot out. (Therefore there is frequently no penalty for the murder.)Consequently, since there is a motivated offender, emboldened bythe absence of a capable guardian (no penalty for their action) anda suitable target. (An unarmed victim)
Common Areas cont.• Places that are considered common domain are not areas where individuals may feel free to defend where they stand without obligation to avoid violence or retreat. There could literally be shoot outs in the streets and no one would be criminally responsible. An article in the Tampa Bay Times reads, "While many have argued the law does not allow someone to pick a fight and claim immunity, it has been used to do just that. It is broad enough that one judge complained that in a Wild West-type shootout, where everybody is armed, everyone might go free. Each individual on each side of the exchange of gunfire can claim self-defense, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis wrote in 2010, saying it could conceivably result in all persons who exchanged gunfire on a public street being immune from prosecution." (Hundley, 2012)
Racial Bias• The statistics bear out that minorities are more likely to be the victims of these vigilante killings. The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys issued a statement supporting an analysis of justifiable homicides to find out if there is any racial bias in the enforcement of the "Stand Your Ground" statute. It reads , " Law enforcement groups like the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, which have opposed these laws, have long cautioned that they would have a "disproportionately negative effect on minorities." (The New York Times, 2012) adding, " Data shows that justifiable homicides have increased by 50 percent in states with these lethal laws.• Michael Yaki, a member of the civil rights commission, has properly asked that the cases involving Stand Your Ground laws be analyzed to see if there is racial bias in accepting a claim of justifiable homicide when the victim is a minority. The results were; Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.• Groups of people whose murders are infrequently investigated make ideal targets.
Unfair Advantage• This law empowers individuals that are not trained in conflict resolution or law enforcement to make life and death decisions based upon their personal perceptions and state of mind, which is a very dangerous privilege to grant. Reality has very little to do with the implementation of the law. Everything is based upon the perception of the person who "stood their ground" and little or no thought is given to the victim, who is frequently found unarmed and deceased. If the culprit claims to have felt threatened, they are usually released without an indictment.• There are multiple dangers to public safety wrought by undoing traditional self-defense principles. In place of the wise duty to retreat, these laws grant gun owners easy license to shoot to kill on the mere claim that they "reasonably believed" they were in danger. This is an immunity greater than that afforded police officers who shoot in the line of duty. Additionally, there is usually minimal investigation and the shooter’s weapon is not confiscated.
Conclusion• Most reasonable people agree that whenever you give individuals the right to use deadly force, the circumstances must be well defined and finite. There should always be a requirement to retreat whenever possible, unless you are in your own home. If you can avoid the confrontation you should have an obligation to do so and then contact the authorities. The lack of reasonable investigation and penalty emboldens people who would not necessarily become murderers if the opportunity wasn’t so readily available.• Furthermore, there should be a clause that prohibits individuals from giving chase or pursuing people in retreat in order to use deadly force. This is not stated in the current version of the law and there have been incidents when the victim was shot as they tried to retreat and the perpetrators were still given the privilege of protection under that law and the murders were ruled justifiable. Self defense should be just that, the minimum force required to preserve your life.
Conclusion II• I have concluded that the Stand Your Ground Law proves the primary tenants of the Routine Activity Theory. Evidenced by the increase in the justifiable homicide rate, resulting from a person’s ability to carry concealed weapons. Additionally, the motivated offender is emboldened to use deadly force against a usually unarmed individual, by the low threshold for immunity and the lack of penalty for those claiming immunity.
References• Smith, Chris (2012, April 30). The Florida Stand Your Ground Task Force. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from : http://senatorchrissmith.com/standyourground/finalreport.pdf.• Florida Statutes Title XLVI , Chapter 776. JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE• Hundley, Kris, Susan Taylor Martin, Connie Humberg. (2012, June 3). Florida Stand Your Ground Law Yields Some Shocking Outcomes Depending On How Law is Applied. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/article1233133.ece• Rosenthal, Andrew.( 2012, June 12). When Self Defense Violates Civil Rights. The New York Times. Retrieved from http:www.nytimes.com/2012/06/0/opinion/when-self-defense- violates-civil-rights.html?r=3• CBS Miami.(2012, March 20). Deaths Nearly Triple Since ―Stand Your Ground‖ Enacted. Retrieved from http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/03/20/deaths-nearly-triple-since-stand-your- ground-enacted/• Lilly, Robert J., Francis T. Cullen, Richard A. Ball, (2011). Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences. (5th Ed.). Thousand Oaks, California. Sage Publications.