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Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Abstract

The implications of laws allowing citizens to respond with deadly force when they believe they are threatened is the subject of significant conjecture in the media and scholarship. The adoption of “Stand Your Ground” laws has increased across the nation despite little data or findings that attempt to capture the ramifications of enacting this policy. This research explores the effect of the “Stand Your Ground” legal defense on criminal convictions in Florida. After exploring the historic assumptions and motivations behind the adoption and use of the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, we use data gathered from local newspapers, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the national census to assess the impact of the new law on self-defense convictions in Florida. We test some of the claims made by the media and political pundits regarding how the law is used and how effective a defense it has been in Florida. Our data has over 200 “Stand Your Ground” cases in 28 counties in Florida. Our analysis shows two significant factors weighing on the success or failure of the use of the law to defend a charge in a criminal case. Initially, we find that race is a significant predictor of success. When the victim is a minority, the perpetrator is less likely to be convicted when using the “Stand Your Ground” defense in Florida. White victims lead to a higher likelihood of conviction. At the county level, the importance of race is evident as well. In counties with higher minority populations, there is a higher probability of conviction under the “Stand Your Ground” defense. Secondarily, we found a significant predictor relating to the use of firearms. A perpetrator is less likely to be convicted when using a gun rather than a knife or other weapon. Shoot, but don’t stab! In Florida, if you stand your ground, then who you are, where you are, and how you defend yourself are important factors. The implications of these findings are discussed.

 

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