Stand Your Ground Should Apply to the Home

South Carolina passed a law that removed people’s duty to retreat when attack in a place they have a right to be at. This law, common referred to as stand your ground, is usually seen as a companion to the law that says you do not have to retreat from your home if somebody breaks in, which is usually referred to as castle doctrine. Whitlee Jones, a woman residing in South Carolina, recently made the news because she stabbed her abusive boyfriend and was eventually charged with murder. Her lawyer attempted to use the stand your ground law to argue that her actions were self-defense:

Whitlee Jones screamed for help as her boyfriend pulled her down the street by her hair. Her weave fell from her head and onto the pavement.

A neighbor heard Jones’ cries and dialed 911 on that night in November 2012.

But the scuffle ended before a North Charleston policeman arrived and asked Jones’ boyfriend what happened. Eric Lee, 29, said their argument over a cellphone had never turned physical. The officer left.

A short time later, Jones went back to the home where she lived with Lee. She planned to pack up and leave for good.

But after Jones gathered her things, Lee stepped in front of her. Though authorities later contended that Lee didn’t attack her, Jones said he shook her and blocked her way out, so she pulled a knife and stabbed him once. Lee died, and Jones was arrested for murder.

Nearly two years later, a judge found earlier this month that Jones, now 25, had a right to kill Lee under the S.C. Protection of Persons and Property Act, which allows people in certain situations to use force when faced with serious injury. But to the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Jones is not the kind of person legislators had in mind when they passed the “stand your ground” law in 2006. It does not apply to housemates in episodes of domestic violence, the prosecutors argued.

Stand your ground laws dictate that one has a right to defend themselves from aggression wherever they have a right to be. I would argue that one has a right to be in their home so understand stand your ground laws should have a right to defend themselves. Furthermore I’ve never seen a stand your ground law that made an exception if your attacker was a husband, boyfriend, or housemate. Based on her boyfriend’s earlier actions that precipitated their neighbor calling 911 I would say she had reason to believe he meant her further harm when he attempted to block her exit.

In truth self-defense shouldn’t be location or aggressor dependent. It shouldn’t matter if you’re at home, at work, or out and about and it shouldn’t matter if your attacker is a complete stranger, a neighbor, or a significant other. If you are attacked you should have a legal right to defend yourself.