It seems like every few months there is another story in the news about a politician or organization calling for the repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws. A recent real-life situation demonstrates how precarious your right to self-defense can be without these essential protections.
Imagine a world where the decision to save your own life leads you to a prison sentence, even if the judge believes you acted in self-defense. A distance of a few feet, and a strict interpretation of the law, is all it took for one unfortunate Connecticut man.
Jeffery Sumpter was working as a clerk at a Dunkin’ Donuts when he was assaulted by three juvenile perpetrators. While the chaotic attack started in the store, it quickly spilled into the parking lot, where Jeffery stabbed one attacker in the leg. Little did Jeffery know that in this fateful moment, his act of self-defense would turn into a felony.
We all know self-defense laws vary from state to state, but on top of that, WHERE you defend yourself can be the difference between walking free or ending up behind bars. A minority of states, including Connecticut, impose a general duty to retreat in public before resorting to the use of deadly physical force. Thankfully, most states have what have been termed “Stand Your Ground” laws. These laws do not require an individual to retreat from a threat if they are in any place where they are legally allowed to be. The fact is, Sumpter did not get this protection because in Connecticut, the only two places where a person under attack does not have a duty to retreat are INSIDE of their home or place of work.
When Sumpter went outside of the store and into the parking lot, he was no longer in his place of work when he used deadly physical force in self-defense. In the eyes of the prosecutor, and ultimately the judge, Sumpter should have fled from his attackers. At the moment he stabbed one of his attackers, the tables turned, and he went from defender to defendant. He was charged, convicted, and sentenced to 18 months incarceration, followed by three years of probation.
If you live in a state that is fortunate enough to have a Stand Your Ground law, be vigilant about it, because if it is ever repealed, this could happen to you.