Created Jan. 29, 2023 | Adapted for Web Nov. 3, 2023
Duty to Retreat is a provision that states a person cannot use deadly force in situations where they could remove themselves from harm with complete safety, such as by walking away from the conflict. Currently, California has no Duty to Retreat provision. Instead, our court decisions and jury instructions have made California a Stand Your Ground state. Thus, a person shooting another is considered lawful self-defense in any instance an individual fears death or extreme bodily harm while in a legally permissible location -- even if retreating would be a safer choice. Below is an excerpt from California Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) No. 506, which concerns justifiable homicide:
“A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of (death/great bodily injury/<insert forcible and atrocious crime>) has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating” (CALCRIM No. 506).
Stand Your Ground (SYG) policies, such as the one excerpted above, cause unjust and inordinate death by gun violence.
● SYG disproportionately kills Black-Americans: State SYG laws have led to an average of 2.75 additional Black Alleged Perpetrators of Crimes being killed each month nationally. In contrast, SYG has had no statistically significant effect on the death rate of White Alleged Perpetrators of Crimes (Spanbauer 23).*
● SYG justifies the needless killing of unarmed people: A 2005-2012 study of Stand Your Ground policies in Florida found that “79% of the cases where such claims succeeded, the defendant could have retreated to avoid the confrontation, and in 68% of successful claims, the person killed was unarmed” (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 8).
● SYG increases racial disparity in criminal justice outcomes: The national likelihood that a White-American who has shot a Black-American will be found not guilty of homicide is 281% greater than if the victim and perpetrator are both White. There is an additional 7% increase in the likelihood of a not guilty outcome for White-American perpetrators in SYG states (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 10).
A statutory Duty to Retreat would take precedence over California’s Stand Your Ground case law and jury instructions. Sign this petition to advocate for saving Black lives, reducing racial inequality in the criminal justice system, and decreasing senseless gun violence.
*Data regarding SYG’s impact on other racial groups is incomplete.
Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2022 edition).
Michael Spanbauer, 2017. "Self-defense Policy, Justified Homicides, and Race," Working Papers 1708, Tulane University, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2018.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. (2021). Stand Your Ground Laws Increase Gun Violence and Perpetuate Racial Disparities. Available: csgv.org.
Alexa R. Yakubovich, Michelle Degli Esposti, Brittany C. L. Lange, G. J. Melendez-Torres, Alpa Parmar, Douglas J. Wiebe, and David K. Humphreys, 2021:
Effects of Laws Expanding Civilian Rights to Use Deadly Force in Self-Defense on Violence and Crime: A Systematic Review
American Journal of Public Health 111, e1_e14, https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.306101 Johnson, Joshua. “5 Things To Know About 'Stand Your Ground' In California.” KQED, NPR, PBS, 22 July 2013,
Volokh, Eugene. “Stand Your Ground (35 States) vs. Duty to Retreat (15 States).” Reason.com, Reason Foundation, 24 Nov. 2021,
Armstrong, Kerry. “Does California Have a Stand Your Ground Law?” Law Of ices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, 22 July 2021,
M., Dee. “Is California a ‘Stand Your Ground’ State?” Shouse Law Group, Shouse Law Group, 12 Nov. 2022, https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/blog/laws/is-california-a-stand-your-ground-state/.