Understanding Arizona's "stand your ground" laws

Justin Schecker

KGUN 9 On Your Side Reporter, Justin Schecker explains Stand Your Ground laws in Arizona

Understanding Arizona's "stand your ground" laws

CREATED Jul. 24, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - "Stand your ground" is a self-defense term that has made national headlines throughout and following the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Arizona is one of more than 20 states with a version of this self-defense law. 

"Arizona is a very self-defense friendly state," Tucson criminal defense attorney Michael Bloom said. "No question about it."

Gov. Jan Brewer said she stands by Arizona's law, but Sen. John McCain said it is something states should review. 

"If somebody is threatening you with imminent or deadly force, and you have the ability to retreat, you don't have to," Bloom said, defining the law. "You can stand your ground and defend yourself."

Lawmakers have expanded Arizonans right to self-defense in the last decade, but the idea of "stand your ground" dates back to when Arizona was still a territory in 1899, Bloom said. 
There are three statutes within Arizona's version of the "stand your ground" law.
When someone breaks into your home, there is a presumption of self-defense and you can use deadly force, Bloom said.
Arizona lawmakers expanded this idea, known as the Castle Doctrine, to include your car. Even if you are able to get out of your car, you can stand your ground with a weapon in self-defense against a carjacker, Bloom said.
In murder cases inside a home or car where the defense argues self-defense, Bloom said prosecutors in Arizona face an uphill battle convincing the jury to convict. 
Arizona's law also states you can defend yourself with deadly force in any place you have the right to be as long as you are not breaking the law, Bloom said. 
Judges still remind jurors they must determine whether a defendant acted reasonably, Bloom added. 
As long as the defendant was not the aggressor, jurors are often sympathetic in self-defense murder trials,  Bloom said based on his 36 years of experience in the courtroom.                 
"When the judge says this is a homicide case or aggravated assault case, and the defense is self-defense, if that's all the jury knows, they're very open to I need to hear these facts," he said. 
Arizona's "stand your ground" laws also changed in 2006 when the burden of proof switched from the defense into the hands of the prosecution. 

Web Producer: Laura Kittell