A stand your ground case in Florida recently made national headlines. Earlier this week, an Uber driver shot and killed a man who threatened him with what he believed to be a gun. This post recaps the Florida case. And it discusses the legal implications had this occurred in Wisconsin.
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Florida Stand Your Ground
Florida has one of the strongest stand your ground laws in the nation. In Florida, people have the right to protect themselves with deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.
In the most recent case, Uber driver Robert Westlake was driving a passenger home when Jason Boek started tailgating his vehicle, eventually running him off the road. Boek believed that his girlfriend was in the car. However, an unrelated female was actually the passenger. Boek threatened Westlake, telling him that he had a gun. When Boek reached for his waistband, Westlake shot him once in the chest. Cops eventually found Boek only had a cell phone. Westlake caught the entire encounter on dashcam, which showed Boek cutting Westlake off, exiting his vehicle and pointing an object at Westlake. And Boek said “I’ve got a pistol.” That’s when Westlake shot one round, striking Boek in the chest. Florida prosecutors explained that this was a classic stand your ground case.
Stand Your Ground in Wisconsin
Wisconsin does not have a specific stand your ground law. Rather, the idea is included in the general self-defense statute (Wis. Stat. sec. 939.48). The difference between Wisconsin’s self-defense statute and others is that in Wisconsin, a jury has to consider whether the person had the opportunity to retreat from the situation. Certainly, if the individual provoked the confrontation, he cannot claim self-defense unless he reasonably believed he exhausted every other reasonable means of escape.
If he didn’t provoke the attack, the jury will consider a few things:
- whether the individual had the opportunity to retreat;
- whether the opportunity was feasible; and
- whether the individual knew of the opportunity to retreat.
Application of Wisconsin law to Florida facts:
After reviewing public information from the Florida case, it appears that Westlake followed Wisconsin law. First, he didn’t provoke the attack. Second, Boek immediately exited his vehicle and began pointing an object at Westlake. It was dark outside and the object is not readily visible. Further, Boek stated that he had a pistol. As this is occurring, Boek was walking straight towards Westlake’s vehicle.
It is unclear whether Westlake could have retreated by putting his vehicle in reverse and driving away. But because he did not provoke the attack, and the entire situation lasted mere seconds after the vehicles came to a stop, a strong argument can be made that he did not have the opportunity to retreat. Therefore, it is likely that Westlake would have a strong self-defense argument in Wisconsin.
Definitely a Gray Area
Self-defense issues are never black and white. Most often, these cases are extremely complicated and require the expertise of criminal defense attorneys who have argued this defense in the past. Our attorneys understand self-defense issues. If you have been charged with a crime and believe you were acting in self-defense, call one of our attorneys today for a free consultation!