The New York Criminal Law Blog

What is the Stand Your Ground Law in New York?

As a result of the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, there is considerable discussion about “stand your ground” laws and “castle” laws.

It also makes one wonder what is New York’s stand your ground law, also known as New York’s castle law (a home is a castle, right?).

Well, New York’s “defense of justification” laws are under Article 35 of the Penal Code. It means that New York doesn’t have a so-called “stand your ground” law like Florida, but these laws cover the same issues.

Under Section 35.15, Subsection 2, a person may not use deadly force upon another person unless the actor reasonably believes that the other person is using or about to use deadly physical force.

But the statute warns, even in such a case, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that he would be safe by retreating. This is a big difference from the Florida law.

However, retreating only applies when you are not at your home. When you are home, and you are not the first or initial aggressor, then you don't have a duty to retreat.

In other words, if you are not at home, then do not stand your ground, rather, you should retreat. But if you are at home, then if you are not the initial aggressor, then you may use force.

It is worth noting that the Trayvon Martin killing causes some confusion because in Florida, stand your ground laws went beyond the typical limitations associated with them -- being at home -- and extended those boundaries to public spaces.

This is not an area of law to be taken lightly. You could shoot someone under the misapprehension that it was justified, and then end up being charged with homicide or voluntary manslaughter. Granted you can't call your attorney if you are under attack, but do try to use as much reason as possible. Don't meet a punch with a gunshot. That is more or less the definition of unreasonable force.

Related Resources: