Is There a “Stand Your Ground” Law in Arkansas?

Feb 6, 2020 | Criminal

The death of Treyvon Martin in 2012, and several other similar death-by-shooting cases, brought a lot of attention to “stand your ground” self-defense laws around the country. These laws allow armed individuals to use deadly force when they believe they are in imminent danger. In light of tragedies like Martin’s death in Florida, and other cases around the country, many people are calling for the repeal of these laws. On the other side, many people believe that these laws are necessary for defending themselves against would-be assailants.

Technically, there is no stand your ground law in Arkansas. However, there is an iteration of a stand your ground law called the “castle doctrine” that affects self-defense cases. To understand how this could affect your self-defense case in Arkansas, let’s take a closer look at the terminology and meaning of these laws. 


 The Duty to Retreat

Before we discuss stand your ground law in Arkansas, we must first have a solid understanding of the “duty to retreat”. The duty to retreat is precisely what it sounds like – it states that a person who is facing an imminent threat of personal, bodily harm must try to retreat as much as possible before defending themselves with deadly force. It’s establishing that deadly force should always be the last possible option. Almost half of the United States adhere to the “duty to retreat” standard, including Hawaii and New York. 


What Are Stand Your Ground Laws? 

Stand your ground laws are basically the reversal of the duty to retreat. Stand your ground laws vary from state to state but, generally, they state that there are circumstances in which it’s acceptable to use force to defend yourself without attempting to retreat first. The purpose behind stand your ground laws is to remove confusion about when it is permissible to defend yourself. They are also meant to eliminate prosecutions of people who legitimately practiced self-defense even though they didn’t try to remove themselves from danger. 

In many states that uphold stand your ground laws, instead of being an affirmative defense, a claim of self-defense offers immunity from prosecution. So instead of claiming self-defense during an assault trial, in states like Florida an individual could claim self-defense under the state’s stand your ground law and avoid trial altogether.  

Now, this is not always true depending on the circumstances of the case and the state’s interpretation of the law. Many states differ on whether the stand your ground laws apply when lethal force is involved. Some states require a duty to retreat before lethal force is involved, while others remove the duty to retreat altogether. 

Need Advise?

Our lawyers are experts in Arkansas self-defense law and they’re here to help.  If you would like to discuss the particulars of your case with a self-defense lawyer, contact the Digby Law Firm.

The Castle Doctrine

While there is no stand your ground law in Arkansas, the state does ascribe to the “castle doctrine”. The castle doctrine is similar to stand your ground laws but it applies only to your home or place of business (and in some states, it extends to your automobile). The idea of the castle doctrine is that “your home is your castle,” and as such you have the right to be safe and secure within your house and should not have to retreat from it when you’re under threat. 

In a practical application, it looks like this – if someone breaks into your home and you believe you may be in imminent danger, you may use lethal force against the intruder without retreating. Several states without stand your ground laws have adopted the castle doctrine. The logic is that anyone trespassing in your home is likely there with ill intent and you should not be expected to leave your home or retreat from defending it. 

Exact definitions and interpretations of the castle doctrine vary from state to state. In Arkansas, the castle doctrine allows the use of deadly force to defend one’s self, home, or others on their property. It is also allowed if they believe a felony involving force or violence is about to take place. 


Does Stand Your Ground Law Apply to the Defense of Others?

This is where the stand your ground laws can get a little convoluted. Since there is no stand your ground law in Arkansas, let’s focus on the castle doctrine for a minute. The castle doctrine states that you are not required to retreat in your own home and you are justified in using lethal force if you are “in the person’s dwelling or on the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling and was not the original aggressor.” So technically, yes, this law applies to the protection of anyone inside your home. 

But generally, when there is no implied threat towards you, you cannot claim self-defense. However, there are circumstances under which it is considered lawful to practice lethal force when others are in danger. In Arkansas:

“A person is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person if the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or about to commit a felony involving force or violence;

(2) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force; or

(3) Imminently endangering the person’s life or imminently about to victimize the person as described in § 9-15-103 from the continuation of a pattern of domestic abuse.”

Ark. Code § 5-2-607 outlines what does and does not constitute the lawful use of lethal force in defense of yourself or another in the State of Arkansas.

If you have any questions about the stand your ground law in Arkansas, or if you would like to discuss the particulars of your case with a self-defense lawyer, contact the Digby Law Firm. Our lawyers are experts in Arkansas self-defense law and they’re here to help. 


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