Will Zimmerman trial lead to change in Va. self defense laws?

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jul 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-15 13:36:57-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - Florida's now widely known "stand your ground" law was front and center during the trial of George Zimmerman.

Nationwide dialogue surrounding the statute, which is designed to give someone the right to use deadly force if they feel their life is in imminent danger, has caused some Virginians to analyze self-defense laws in the Commonwealth.

According to legal experts, common law in Virginia allows you to use "reasonable force" to defend yourself in an attack. That is different from Florida's "stand your ground" law, which experts said specifically removes the duty to retreat.

In Virginia, the facts of each case are weighed to decide whether someone acted "reasonably" under the specific circumstance. In order for any portion of this to change, the Virginia General Assembly would be required to pass legislation.

Self-defense legislation is nothing new.

A "Castle Doctrine" bill, which would have given homeowners the right to use deadly force if an intruder entered their home, was tabled during the 2012 session. The bill did not include "stand your ground" language, but was focused on self defense within a home.

CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said he expects legislators to introduce self-defense legislation following the Zimmerman case.

"My sense is we will see some people trying to clarify self defense [law in Virginia], but my guess is it's not going to come from one political side," Dr. Holsworth said.  "We might see both parties involved in this."