Attorneys explain ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in Kentucky

Based on a new study published by Jama Network Open, it estimates that Stand your Ground laws result in an additional 700 homicides each year.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -The recent shootings of a Kansas City teen and a young woman in New York have brought national attention to ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, and what they mean for self-defense.

30 states, including Kentucky, have ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in place. The laws apply anywhere that a person has a legal right to be, including public spaces, and revoke any ‘duty to retreat’ when confronted with a threat. This allows the use of lethal force in public, but only in cases of self-defense where there is an immediate attack.

“There has always been, for hundreds of years, the standard that you have to try to retreat from the conflict before using lethal force. Stand Your Ground refers to repealing the duty to retreat in public, meaning that you can take someone else’s life even if you could have left the conflict without harm to yourself or anyone else,” said Allison Anderman, director of local policy for Giffords Law Center.

Included in Kentucky’s self-defense laws is a clause allowing for the defense of others. For this defense, the acting party must be absolutely sure that there is immediate danger to the person they are acting to defend. Otherwise, they will then be considered the perpetrator, regardless of intention.

“In that situation when I am using the defense of others, I must be correct in my understanding, and if I am mistaken, I can be charged criminally for that,” said Phillip Kimbel, partner at Poole, Kimbel & Deeb Attorneys at Law.

To justify any use of force, lethal or otherwise, a person must be able to prove a real sense of danger existed before they defended themselves. The judgment used in these cases relies on the perspective of a ‘responsible person,’ and often creates a legal gray area.

“The self-defense law only applies if you are under specific and direct attack. And you certainly do not have the right to use it against someone who is simply a trespasser, or someone who mistakenly comes to your door,” said Kimbel.

Only an active attack warrants the use of lethal force, not the suspicion of one about to occur, or one that has already ended. Individuals fleeing the scene of a crime, or trespassing, are not subject to any use of force from a citizen.

Kimbel said, “If someone is breaking into your home, you can use deadly force to defend yourself. If they change their mind, and they’re running out across your front yard trying to get back to their car and you use deadly force in that situation, then you’re going to be the perpetrator.”

While highly controversial, ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws have been in place in Kentucky since 2006. While these laws allow the use of deadly force, the situation must be especially dire, and the danger must be immediate, for any action to be taken.

“If someone is simply mistaken and goes to an address by accident, or if their ball rolls over into somebody’s yard, it is totally inappropriate and not supported by the law to use deadly force in that situation,” said Kimbel.