States That Have Stand Your Ground Laws
Many states have enacted “stand your ground” laws that remove the duty to retreat before using force in self-defense. The following is a list of states that have enacted laws specifically affirming one's right to stand your ground when defending yourself against a serious imminent threat, with no duty to retreat, so long as you are in a place you have a right to be in. States that have adopted a stand your ground doctrine through judicial interpretation of their self-defense laws are not included in this list:
- New Hampshire
As noted above, some states have self-defense laws, either through statute or case law, that are similar to stand your ground laws, but with at least one key difference. These laws generally apply only to the home or other real property (such as an office) and are often referred to as "castle doctrine" or "defense of habitation" laws.
These states include: Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia.
Duty to Retreat States
A substantial minority of states have laws imposing a duty to retreat, with some important variations. In general, a duty to retreat means that you are not allowed to resort to deadly force in self-defense if it is possible to safely avoid the risk of harm or death (by running away, for example). If that is not an option, for example, if you were cornered or pinned down and facing serious harm, then you could be authorized to use deadly force in self defense. The following states impose some form of duty to retreat before deadly self defense is authorized:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
Laws on self-defense vary widely from state to state and may have minor, but crucial differences in their language and application. For an in depth understanding of self defense laws and how they work in your state, it may be best to check with a local criminal law attorney.