Recently, Connecticut legislators have been attempting to pass a stand your ground bill, igniting a wave of controversy. Advocates of the bill say they want to expand Connecticut’s self-defense law in light of increased crime. Progressives argue that stand your ground bills are ambiguous and highly dangerous to vulnerable populations, and that these bills have gained popularity more due to right-wing reactionary politics after the protests of 2020. As Connecticut decides how to shape its legislation, where do things stand now? This blog will explain in what cases Connecticut allows you to use force in self-defense and defense of your home and how the castle doctrine works. Remember that Hartford County criminal defense attorneys will fight for your rights.
Context of Castle Doctrine: Stand Your Ground
Today, stand your ground laws exist in 35 different states in the USA, but the very first to adopt one was Florida in 2005. Stand your ground laws allow people to use lethal force, if they reasonably believe that unless they do, they may be killed or greatly injured. Some states have replaced the burden of proof in stand your ground laws, from a reasonable person standard, which requires the defendant to prove their use of force was justified, to a presumption of reasonable that instead requires the prosecutor to prove it wasn’t reasonable. At least 28 states and Puerto Rico lack a duty to retreat. The current debate arises from United States history and how some jurisdictions have traditionally interpreted what a reasonable belief is in light of societal prejudices.
Connecticut does not have a stand your ground law. Instead, Connecticut’s castle doctrine tries to balance avoiding harm while allowing the use of force in restricted circumstances.
In most public spaces, individuals have a duty to retreat and de-escalate or remove themselves from a dangerous situation, before they are legally allowed to use lethal force. Castle doctrine is linked to the duty to retreat, both in application and to some degree in conception, because castle doctrine states that people do not have a duty to retreat if someone is threatening them within their own home.
There have been some recent attempts not only to adapt Connecticut law to include stand your ground ideology, but also to expand the use of castle doctrine beyond the home. Legislators argued that for a bill that would include motor vehicles in castle doctrine, rather than just homes. Opponents returned that such an expansion of castle doctrine goes against the spirit of the law, which allows force when you are threatened inside your home without being able to retreat. With the expansion, castle doctrine would potentially allow the use of lethal force whenever there is a car robbery.