Another stand your ground case is making national headlines from Florida. Earlier this week, an Uber driver shot and killed a man who threatened him with what he believed to be a gun. This post will recap the Florida case and discuss the legal implications had this occurred in Wisconsin.
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 has a gun. When Boek reached for his waistband, Westlake shot him once in the chest. It was later revealed that Boek only had a cell phone. The entire encounter was caught on Westlake’s dashcam, which shows Boek cutting Westlake off, exiting his vehicle and pointing an object at Westlake. Boek can be heard saying “I’ve got a pistol.” That’s when Westlake shot one round, striking Boek in the chest. The Florida sheriff explained that this is 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. The difference between Wisconsin’s self-defense statute and stand your ground laws in other states 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 believes he has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm.
If he did not provoke the attack, then the jury will consider whether the individual had the opportunity to retreat, whether the opportunity was feasible, and whether the individual knew of the opportunity to retreat.
After reviewing what has been made public from the Florida case, it would appear that Westlake would be justified in the shooting if it had occurred in Wisconsin. First, it does not appear that he provoked 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 states that he has a pistol. As this is occurring, Boek is 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. The attorneys at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. are well versed in self-defense cases. 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!