Stand Your Ground Without Breaking the Law
In November 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state’s 2017 ‘stand your ground’ law does not apply to those engaged in criminal activity prior to using deadly force. This ruling came after a man was convicted of murder because he feared the victim had a weapon. However, the man was illegally carrying a gun without a license.
This case raised questions about who is afforded protection under Iowa’s stand your ground law. Once the Iowa Supreme Court clarified this ambiguity, it established that law-abiding citizens can use deadly force to defend themselves before retreating from a situation. Citizens who are engaged in criminal activity, however, cannot justify their use of deadly force.
Iowa’s Stand Your Ground Law
Iowa’s stand your ground law permits the justifiable use of deadly force in certain circumstances. A person is justified in the use of reasonable force when they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to defend themself or another from any actual or imminent use of unlawful force. They may also use reasonable force to terminate criminal interference with their possession or other rights in their property.
According to Iowa Code Section 704.2A, a person is presumed to reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to their or another’s life or safety in either of the following circumstances:
The person who uses force must reasonably believe that the person against whom the force is used is doing any of the following:
- Unlawfully entering by force or stealth the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, or has unlawfully entered by force or stealth and remains within the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.
- Unlawfully removing or is attempting to unlawfully remove another person against the other person’s will from the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.
This law does not apply if, at the time force is used, any of the following circumstances are present:
- The person using defensive force is engaged in a criminal offense, is attempting to escape from the scene of a criminal offense that the person has committed, or is using the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal offense
- The person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of the person against whom force is used.
- The person against whom force is used is a peace officer who has entered or is attempting to enter a dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle in the lawful performance of the peace officer’s official duties.
- The person against whom the force is used has the right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, and a protective or no-contact order is not in effect against the person against whom the force is used
It’s easy to misinterpret Iowa’s stand your ground law, as it is fairly new and subject to change, as we’ve seen from the 2019 Supreme Court ruling. To best avoid a homicide or weapons offense accusation, equip yourself with the knowledge and awareness you deserve.