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Tennessee “Stand Your Ground” Law

There’s been some chatter about the new bill passed by the TN .gov concerning self defense, what many people call a “Stand Your Ground” bill. I wrote about it here.

There’s a lot of assumptions going on, so I’m going to post up the summary (found here, thanks to Jesse.)

I took the liberty of breaking it into readable chunks, seeing as no one in the state knows what an Enter key is. It’s below the fold:


Bill Summary for
This bill revises the present law provisions governing self-defense, defense of a third person, and protection of property.

SELF-DEFENSE Under present law, a person is justified in threatening or using force against another individual when and to the degree the person reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary for self-defense. The person must have a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. The danger creating the belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury must be real, or honestly believed to be real at the time, and must be founded upon reasonable grounds.

There is no duty to retreat before a person threatens or uses force. Under present law, any person using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury within the person’s own residence is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury to self, family or a member of the household when that force is used against another individual, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence, and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

This bill expands the present law presumption of reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury to self, family or a member of the household to occasions where the individual against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering, or had already so entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle. This presumption of reasonable fear would also arise where the individual against whom the defensive force was used had removed or was attempting to remove a person against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle. This presumption of reasonable fear would not apply if:

(1) The individual against whom the defensive force was used had the right to be in the dwelling, residence, or vehicle;
(2) The person sought to be removed from such place is a child, grandchild, or person otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of the individual against whom the force was used;
(3) The person who uses the defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
(4) The individual against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer entering or attempting to enter the premises in the performance of official duties after proper identification of this fact or if the person using the force knew or reasonably should have known that the individual entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.

This bill specifies that a person not engaged in an unlawful activity and attacked in any other place the person has a right to be would have no duty to retreat and would have the right to stand ground, meeting force with force, including deadly force if the person reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Any individual who unlawfully and by force enters and attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle would be presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

DEFENSE OF A THIRD PERSON Under present law, a person is justified in threatening or using force against another individual to protect a third person if, under the circumstances as the person reasonably believes them to be, the person would be justified in threatening or using force to protect himself, and if the person reasonably believes that the intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person.

This bill allows a person to use force, except deadly force, against another individual when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes such conduct is necessary to defend himself or a third person against the individual’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, the use of deadly force with no duty to retreat would be allowed if the person reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to the self or a third person or to prevent the imminent commission or a forcible felony.

PROTECTION OF PROPERTY Under present law, a person in lawful possession of real or personal property is justified in threatening or using force against another individual when and to the degree it is reasonably believed the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the individual’s trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property. A person who has been unlawfully dispossessed of real or personal property is justified in threatening or using force against the other individual when and to the degree it is reasonably believed the force is immediately necessary to reenter the land or recover the property if the person threatens or uses the force immediately, or in fresh pursuit after the dispossession and where the person reasonably believes the individual had no claim of right when dispossessing the person and the initial dispossession was accomplished by threatening or using force against the person. A person is not justified in using deadly force to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on real estate or unlawful interference with personal property.

This bill allows a person to use force, except deadly force, against another individual when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on, or other tortious or criminal interference with, real property other than a dwelling or personal property.

The property in question must be within the possession of the person using of force, under that person’s legal duty to protect, or in the possession of another immediate member of that person’s family or household. The use of deadly force would be justified only where the person reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a felony involving violence or a deadly weapon. A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person has a right to be in that place.

OTHER PROVISIONS This bill specifies that a person who is permitted and justified to use force as described in this bill would be immune from criminal prosecution and civil liability, including arrest, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the person for such use, except where the force was used against a law enforcement officer acting, upon proper identification or where the person using force knew or reasonably should have known the person was a law enforcement officer, in the performance of official duties.

A law enforcement agency could use standard procedures for investigating the use of permitted and justified force, but the agency could not arrest the person unless there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful. Reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by a defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff would be awarded if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution due to the use of force which is permitted and justified.

ON MARCH 30, 2006, THE SENATE ADOPTED AMENDMENT #1 AND PASSED SENATE BILL 2672, AS AMENDED. AMENDMENT #1 retains present law regarding defense of third persons and protection of property, adds specific examples of situations when the use of force is not justified, and removes immunity from criminal prosecution for any person who uses self defense. This amendment retains the present law provisions whereby force is not justified under the following circumstances:

(1) The person using force consented to the exact force used or attempted by the other individual;
(2) The person using force provoked the other individual’s use or attempted use of unlawful force, unless the person using force abandons the encounter, or clearly communicates to the other person the intent to abandon the encounter and the other person continues to use unlawful force against the person; or
(3) To resist a halt at a roadblock, arrest, search, or stop and frisk that the person using force knows is being made by a law enforcement officer, unless the law enforcement officer uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest, search, stop and frisk, or halt and the person using force reasonably believes that the force is immediately necessary to protect against the law enforcement officer’s use or attempted use of greater force than necessary. Under this amendment persons who use force in self defense would remain immune from civil liability but not from criminal prosecution.

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