BAKERSFIELD, CA - A large part of George Zimmerman's defense in Florida, as he's accused of second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, is his right under Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law. It allows a person to use force in self defense without having to first retreat from a potentially dangerous situation.
California does not have the Stand Your Ground law. Instead, it has something called a Castle Law and No Duty to Retreat. While some interpret the law to be very close to Stand Your Ground, if not the same, others say Stand Your Ground is far more dangerous.
"It ups the number of killings when you have a public Stand your Ground law, especially in a carry state," said defense attorney Kyle Humphrey.
Humphrey is against the Stand Your Ground law.
"You're really letting an individual say there is no objective measure, it's what I think to use deadly force under this law. Whereas, in California, it's always an objective measure," explained Humphrey.
There are currently 25 states with the Stand Your Ground law. California is not one of them. We have the Castle Law, allowing you to use force if there is forcible entry into your home and fear of imminent death or great bodily injury.
But, California also has No Duty to Retreat, allowing someone to stand their ground and defend themselves anywhere if they are threatened.
"So, it would be the same, as my understanding, as Florida's law where you don't have a duty to retreat," explained Assistant District Attorney, Scott Spielman.
Spielman says although our state law has a different name, it's essentially the same as Stand Your Ground. Even a presumed threat, like one just saying they have a gun, could be perceived as danger.
"I think it's a good law. Could it be misused? Absolutely, just the same as mental defenses could be misused. People could say they are crazy at the time and they really weren't," said Spielman.
But, Humphrey believes California's law has a higher standard of what constitutes self defense, with a rich case history, and Stand Your Ground could insight more violence.
"There is some very good research that shows it results in racial inequity. Far more people die of color which, if used in a defense. And, overall, the homicide rate has gone up. Sometimes giving too much power to individuals to make decisions about life or death, it's not a good idea," said Humphrey.
California's self defense law also says once an attacker is disabled, meaning throws a weapon down and runs or becomes unconscious, you have to stop attacking. And, an aggressor can't claim self defense.