Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia

Should the need to defend yourself ever arise, understanding the Georgia Stand Your Ground Law is essential. The rules and rights behind the Georgia Stand Your Ground law outline exactly what justifies these actions when faced with the immediate threat of danger or deadly force.

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What Is the Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia?

The Georgia state government enacted the Stand Your Ground Law to protect Georgians and their property. Georgia is one of 38 states that employs this law, despite RAND Corporation research that concluded there is moderate evidence that stand-your-ground laws may increase homicide rates and limited evidence that the laws increase firearm homicides in particular.”

According to Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law, citizens can use deadly force to defend themselves, other people, or property if they believe such force is necessary to prevent death, bodily injury, or a felony.

There is no obligation for anyone to retreat to their home or wherever they may be. People have the right to act in self-defense if they reasonably believe there is an immediate threat to their property, home, or person.

What are the situations in which court systems can consider the laws in some of these cases? A person enacting his/her rights under this law typically asks the judge for a hearing before the trial begins. They present the facts and evidence (if any) to show the perpetrator was trying to break into their house, for example, to show they had no choice in acting in self-defense.

So How Is Stand Your Ground Determined Before the District Attorney Sees the Case?

When determining whether the law protects a case, investigators must consider many factors. The police must investigate the incident in question. They have to try to determine who is the primary aggressor, find any evidence, and figure out whether the person claiming the law’s protection was really trying to defend themselves or bring harm to someone else.

There are times when the district attorney, who represents the city at trial, feels the person using the law’s protection went beyond its protection and will refer the case to a grand jury to consider an indictment.

Why Is There a Self Defense Law in Georgia?

States have self-defense laws that allow people who are immediately threatened to defend themselves or others using reasonable force without putting themselves or others at risk of criminal liability. Self-defense laws in Georgia allow people to stand their ground and use reasonable force to defend themselves or others, even if they had the option of running away instead. This is true regardless of whether someone approaches them on the street, in the car, or even at home. Standing your ground legally depends on where the defensive action took place and whether the person was defending himself or other people, property, habitation (a house or vehicle), or land.

Castle Doctrine in Georgia

As the old saying goes, “A man’s home is his castle.” When that castle comes under siege, the king has the right to protect it. As translated into the modern-day language, the Castle Doctrine holds that people may defend their homes or other property by using reasonable force. The Stand Your Ground law applies here, as well. The use of force to protect your home need not require you to leave it.

It is not necessary to believe you are in danger of death or great bodily injury, as with the self-defense statute. If you believe threats or force are necessary to prevent unlawful entry or remove a trespasser from your home, then the Castle Doctrine applies. You may also use reasonable force to defend the property in your possession or that belongs to a family member or to someone you are legally obligated to protect.

Self-defense Cases and the Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia

According to Stand Your Ground laws and other self-defense laws, if you harm, threaten, or even kill another person and do so in a reasonable manner, you may be justified in doing so. The problem is defining what is reasonable. Almost always, police and prosecutors will err on the side of caution. In other words, if you choose to stand your ground and defend your castle, you should expect to be questioned and perhaps arrested and charged with assault, manslaughter, or even murder.

It is not uncommon to find that a large number of officers will agree to a person’s right to self-defense, depending on the jurisdiction. The act of self-defense may be subject to questioning by the police in other jurisdictions, especially if a person uses a firearm. 

It is imperative that, if you use the Stand Your Ground Law, you seek the assistance of an attorney before making a statement or speaking with law enforcement. Whenever you or someone you care about defends you, the person giving police a statement will probably be in shock, and they may not mention crucial facts establishing self-defense. The lawyer is there to get you through the legal thicket.

The Castle Doctrine and self-defense don’t exempt anyone from the laws against murder or physical assault. In essence, they are justifications for otherwise illegal behavior. A high-stakes criminal court will require you and your attorney to prove to the jury that what you did was reasonable and justifiable.

Georgia Adverse Possession Laws
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If prepared properly from the beginning, it’s possible to win self-defense cases if the police determine there was a crime and decide to file charges. The potential use of crime scene reconstruction experts, as well as eyewitness testimony, can present insights into what each person saw or believed under the circumstances.

You will also have to provide evidence of the deceased’s (if the person claiming self-defense did, in fact, kill the other) pattern of abuse if you acted in response to domestic violence. Whatever the case, your criminal attorney will explain the steps necessary to present a justification defense.  

The attorney will also explain an immunity motion if they file and argue for one. If a judge grants a motion for immunity,  she can dismiss the charges if you meet the conditions necessary to set forth the basis of self-defense.

Conclusions

Taking justice into one’s own hands isn’t the point of Stand Your Ground laws. In contrast, they provide defenses when people are attacked. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can stand by your side from arrest, if the police determine it was not self-defense, through trial, guiding you through the courts. The lawyer will plead your case that what you or your family did was justified in preventing harm to yourself or your loved ones. 

Article by Mariia Synytska

Mariia Synytska is Content Lead at Lawrina, a legal portal that projects innovation in law. Mariia manages the content on the website, takes interviews with lawyers and law experts, and looks for the interesting topics for Lawrina's audience. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Mariia for all the details via email m.synytska@lawrina.com.

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