Indiana’s Stand Your Ground Law

August 01, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Indiana’s Stand Your Ground Law 

Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law is again receiving media attention following the mass shooting at the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Indiana, on July 17th, 2022. The shooting spree, in which three people were killed and two others injured, was put to a stop when the perpetrator was fatally shot by a civilian who was legally armed.

In the aftermath of the event, local officials have praised the actions of the civilian bystander and have stated that they believe he was justified, under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, in using deadly force to stop the perpetrator. Generally, Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law permits citizens to use “reasonable or deadly force” to protect others from what they reasonably believe is the imminent threat of unlawful force, serious bodily injury, unlawful trespassing on property or the commission of a felony.

This law seems to apply rather easily when justifying the actions of the civilian bystander who prevented further casualties in a mass shooting. However, the Stand Your Ground law can become more complicated when a court is left to interpret the definition of “reasonable force,” and “reasonably believe,” in the context of a situation where only one eyewitness remains to provide an account of the events that lead to the use of deadly force.

If you find yourself facing charges related to an event where you believe that you acted within the confines of Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law, the Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you build an effective defense. Our team has prior experience working as deputy prosecutors and public defenders. We understand Indiana gun laws and have intimate knowledge of how prosecutors across the state approach these types of cases.

What is Indiana’s Stand Your Ground Law? 

Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law is outlined in Indiana Code 35-41-3-2. This law states that a person does not have to retreat and cannot be placed in legal jeopardy for:

  • The use of a reasonable amount of force against another person to protect that person or other persons from what they believe to be the imminent use of unlawful force.
  • The use of deadly force against another person, if they believe that deadly force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to the person, other persons, or the commission of a forcible felony.
  • The use of reasonable force, including deadly force, against another person if the person believes it’s necessary to prevent or terminate another person’s unlawful entry or attack on the person’s dwelling, attached property (like a shed, yard, or front porch), or vehicle (if occupied).

Furthermore, Indiana law does not require a person to declare a reason as to why they believed the intruder would have hurt them or another person when justifying the use of deadly force. However, that reasoning will play a critical role later in the determination of reasonableness.

The History of Stand Your Ground in Indiana 

Indiana’s Stand Your Ground laws grew out of a self-defense precedent set in the late 1800s. The court’s verdict in the case of Plummer v. State of Indiana stated that Plummer was not guilty of manslaughter when he killed a law enforcement officer who had used unlawful force against him. For 84 years, the outcome of this case acted as de-facto self-defense law for the state of Indiana. Then, in 1977, the state of Indiana became one of the last states to codify self-defense, modeling their new law on the Castle Doctrine. =

In 2005, Florida passed the nation’s second Stand Your Ground law, and the following year, Indiana followed suit by adding its own Stand Your Ground statutes. Five years later, the Indiana Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling on Barnes v. State of Indiana pushed the general assembly to expand the law even further. In 2012, then Governor Mitch Daniels signed an amendment to Indiana’s 2006 Castle Doctrine amendment, giving all Hoosiers the statutory right to defend themselves with reasonable force against unlawful force, or unlawful entry, trespass, or attack on their home or vehicle by law enforcement officers. This law, which can be found under Indiana Code 35-41-3-2(i), made Indiana the first state to allow the use of force against police officers.

Establishing Lawful Action in a “Stand Your Ground” Case 

In contrast to early “Castle Doctrine” laws, Stand Your Ground laws extend the right to use reasonable or deadly force beyond just a person’s dwelling. In Indiana, if the events in question took place beyond your dwelling, you would need to demonstrate that you “reasonably believed,” that you or someone else was in “imminent danger” and that you used “reasonable force” against the person to prevent “unlawful force” or the “commission of a felony.”

If you’re facing charges for a violent crime but are of the belief that you acted within the confines of Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law, you should seek assistance from an experienced Indiana criminal defense lawyer. They can help you understand the language of the law and build an effective Stand Your Ground defense. The criminal defense team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP is comprised of former prosecutors and public defenders who have a deep understanding of the various strategies the prosecutor’s office uses when trying to build their case against you. Give us a call at (317) 648-9560 or set up a free consultation today.

What Constitutes Reasonable Force? 

Generally, reasonable force means that the force you use against someone else should match the force that was or will be used upon you or others. If your case goes to court, the judge or jury will seek to determine reasonable force by applying the “reasonable person standard,” which asks the question: “Would a reasonable person in the exact same situation as you use a similar amount of force?”

Example: You get shoved to the ground by an attacker, and they proceed to raise their fist in preparation to hit you in the face. Before they can do so, you pepper spray them in the eyes. In this case, your actions could be recognized by a court as reasonable force. However, shooting the attacker with a firearm in this scenario may cause the court to wonder why you didn’t remove yourself from the situation or simply use lesser force.

What Constitutes Reasonable Belief and Imminence?

In the case of Stand Your Ground laws, reasonable belief is widely understood to mean that you genuinely believed that the attacker’s force was imminent (about to happen) and unlawful, and that your belief was reasonable. Once again, a judge or jury would use the “reasonable person standard” to ascertain if that belief, under the specific circumstances of your case, was reasonable.

Example: If you engaged in a heated verbal exchange with someone and they proceeded to swiftly approach you with a raised baseball bat, those circumstances could likely be accepted as a reasonable belief that the attacker’s force was imminent and unlawful. In contrast, if proceeded to use force against a person that had turned around and walked away following a heated exchange, the court may not accept that you had a reasonable belief that force was imminent when you took action.

What Constitutes Unlawfulness or the Commission of a Felony?

Regarding unlawfulness or commission of a felony in the matter of a Stand Your Ground case, the judge or jury is seeking to evaluate whether the imminent force or the force placed upon you was, in fact, unlawful or felonious.

Example: Let’s say that you are waiting in line to get into a popular night club, and after an hour you make it to the front door. However, the bouncer will not let you into the club. You try to push your way past the bouncer, but he prevents you from doing so by putting his hands on you and physically moving you backward. Enraged, you struggle with him for a moment and proceed to strike him in the face. In this case, a “Stand Your Ground” defense would likely not work in your favor, as the actions taken by the bouncer were not unlawful or felonious. Your actions, on the other hand, could warrant a felony battery charge.

What Justifies the Use of Deadly Force?

Under Indiana Stand Your Ground laws, the use of deadly force is justified without the duty to retreat if you reasonably believe that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to yourself or others or the commission of a forcible felony.

Example: If someone throws a golf ball at you on the course and looks like they’re about to throw another your way, you would be justified in throwing a golf ball back at them. However, you are not justified in going over and punching them square in the jaw, as the golf ball threw at you did not have the potential to cause serious bodily injury. On the other hand, if someone has pinned you to the ground and begins beating you with a golf club, you may be justified in the decision to use deadly force to prevent serious bodily injury.

Which Dwellings Justify the Use of Deadly Force?

The use of deadly force is justified without the duty to retreat if it’s necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry or attack on your dwelling, property, any accompanying structures (like a porch or shed), or vehicle (if you currently occupy it). These circumstances also apply to property held by family members or property held by another person that you have the authority to protect.

For Example: If someone, without explicit permission, is wandering around your property, or property owned by a family member, entering structures like a shed or garage and appears to be collecting items of value, you may be justified in the use of deadly force as a measure to prevent or terminate their unlawful entry. However, if a door-to-door salesperson politely rings your doorbell, you are not justified in using force to terminate their presence on your property because solicitation (See Martin v. City of Struthers) is protected under the first amendment.

Indiana Stand Your Ground Attorneys 

If you’ve been charged with a violent crime in Indiana, but feel that you acted within your rights given Indiana’s Stand Your Ground law, you’ll want to retain an experienced defense attorney right away. Violent crimes are some of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes in Indiana. However, there are many different defenses that can potentially be used for your situation, and if we discover that you acted within your right, we can use this to your advantage.

As former prosecutors, the lead attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP know exactly what to look for in the case being made against you. We can plan accordingly to combat the prosecutor’s tactics and challenge the evidence gathered against you. With our guidance, you may be able to secure a favorable result for your case.

Time is of the essence when it comes to Stand Your Ground and self-defense cases, so make sure you take action as soon as possible. Contact us at (317) 648-9560 or set up a free consultation today.

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