Posted February 20, 2018 | Uncategorized
Stand your ground laws have gotten a lot of publicity nationwide as a result of certain highly-publicized trials in Florida and elsewhere. The trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 did much to bring such laws to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. Utah is one of many states with “stand your ground” laws, and, recently, the Utah legislature began considering changes to Utah law in connection to “stand your ground.” Here is what you need to know about updates to Utah’s Stand Your Ground law.
Utah has had a “stand your ground” law on the books since the 1990s. Current Utah law makes it legal to threaten the use of force or to use force, including deadly force, only if you believe you or someone else is in danger of serious bodily harm from another person. That is, you may defend yourself or others from harm through the use of force if need be.
The law does not allow for the use of force if you provoke someone into threatening you first or if you are in the process of committing or fleeing a felony. Utah designed the law to protect people who are trying to protect themselves (or others) from harm, without subjecting them to criminal or civil prosecution.
Current law does not clarify the duty of the threatened person to retreat, if he or she can, from the encounter. The current bill before the Utah House of Representatives adds language to clarify this circumstance. If the bill passes, it would clarify that you do not have to retreat in an encounter where someone is threatening you or another, and it would restrict suits against those using deadly force based on failure to retreat.
Racial tensions have increased in recent years, spurred in part by Trayvon Martin’s death. Opponents of the current bill worry that this would pave the way for minorities and others to be more subject to attack. The fears generated by cases such as the death of Trayvon Martin weigh heavily on those who worry that any strengthening of “stand your ground” laws make it easier for people to attack minorities and try to claim the law as a defense.
The Utah House of Representatives passed the current revision of the bill. However, it must still pass the state senate, and there is some opposition. If you find yourself in a situation that places you or someone else in danger, you have the right to defend yourself and the lives of others. However, if you are able to retreat from the situation without using force, you may face a wrongful death suit if you pursue the perpetrator anyway.
It is important that in any case where someone uses violence against you or you’ve had to “stand your ground” that you see to your own safety first. Getting the names and contact information of witnesses immediately after the situation is over can help make your case if you feel someone used excessive force in threatening you or others. Photographs of the scene can help provide visual evidence from the time of the incident as well. Finally, writing down your thoughts and observations soon after the incident can help secure your memories from the time of the incident and refresh your memory if someone asks you about it later.
Utah’s “stand your ground” laws are for your protection. By fully complying with the law, you can protect yourself and others from harm without fear of litigation.