The Castle Doctrine and use of deadly force

In the news is the tragic death of Trayvon Martin last week near Orlando, Florida. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch commander, shot and killed Martin after the teenager allegedly threatened him.

Critics of Florida’s Castle Doctrine laws, passed in 2005, are pointing to the fact that Zimmerman has not been arrested. Local law-enforcement and now the Justice Department are investigating. It would be hard to brush this incident under the rug. (My prediction: Zimmerman will be indicted for manslaughter.)

It’s unfortunate that liberal components of the media are assailing what’s known as the Castle Doctrine laws in a number of states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma. It’s based on a man (or woman) is King of his Castle, and does not have to retreat from his castle if someone breaks in to do harm. Another important component of these laws is that no homeowner can be sued civilly for actions deemed justified in the criminal justice system.

It’s hard to see how Zimmerman can claim he was in his castle, since he was patrolling the gated subdivision where he lives. Arguably, he was engaged in activity that should be regulated by the state – i.e. carrying a firearm while protecting his and other people’s property.

But – and this is the point here – the Castle Doctrine does not trump a state’s laws on the use of deadly force. Just like having a concealed carry license (which Zimmerman reportedly possessed) doesn’t invest in you any more authority than a man with rocks in his pocket.

Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to argue to police, a judge or a jury of your peers you were in fear for your life, and had to shoot an unarmed, 17-year-old teenager carrying nothing more threatening than a bag of Skittles. (TDH)