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Standing Your Ground: Legal Under Certain Conditions in Hawaii

In the wake of the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict for shooting Trayvon Martin, Stand Your Ground laws have become - and continue to be - a familiar topic for most Americans. These laws address the issue of what rights you have to defend yourself when you are threatened with serious bodily injury or death.

Most Americans, including Hawaii residents, have the right to use deadly force to protect themselves inside their own homes. Hawaii criminal law has a stand your ground provision, HRS 703-304, that permits the usage of deadly force when an individual believes doing so is the only way to protect themselves against:

  • Death
  • Serious bodily injury
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Forcible sodomy

Therefore, an act of self-defense is justifiable even if the individual's fear of imminent harm or injury turns out to be wrong, just as with the Florida law. As long as the fear was reasonable at the time of the incident, the action is justified under the law.

When the Stand Your Ground provision is not enforceable

Hawaii's Stand Your Ground provision says the use of force is not justifiable if the individual is attempting:

  • To resist an arrest, even if it is unlawful, when the individual knows the arrest is being made by a law enforcement officer
  • To resist force used by a property owner, or a person acting on behalf of a property owner, who is attempting to protect the property

Deadly force is not permissible in situations where the individual provoked the use of force against themselves with the intent of causing harm, or if the individual knows they can be safe if they leave a specific area, with limited exceptions.

Twenty states have enacted similar Stand Your Ground laws, allowing citizens to act in self-defense outside the home. These statutes are highly controversial in light of the Zimmerman/Martin case but have been used to build successful defenses for those accused of crimes.

If you were acting in self-defense, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you make your case in the Hawaii criminal justice system.

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  • United States District Court, Northern District of California
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