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What does a 'Stand Your Ground' law entail and does Virginia have one?

"Stand Your Ground" laws are once again in the spotlight after two innocent people were shot in the last week in Kansas City and upstate New York.

NORFOLK, Va. — “Stand Your Ground” laws are once again in the spotlight after two innocent people were shot in the last week by property owners in Kansas City and upstate New York.

“Stand your Ground” allows a person to use deadly force even if it could be avoided by retreating.

In these diverse United States of America, people's willingness to shoot first and ask questions later seems to be increasing. The laws about when a person is legally permitted to shoot someone else vary from state to state.

When it comes to self-defense in your own home, about 30 states have a clear “stand your ground law” on the books.

But Virginia does not.

“All of our self-defense laws are basically contained within the common law. In other words - the decisions the courts have made over centuries that, in some cases, define when a person can defend themselves," explained 13News Now Legal Analyst and attorney Ed Booth.

Booth said Virginia has no formal law defining what is or isn’t legal. Instead, the self-defense laws here are based on legal precedent.

“Basically, in Virginia, the law is this: that if you are in imminent fear of bodily harm - you reasonably believe that are you getting ready to suffer serious bodily harm, you are justified in using whatever force you need to repel that attack. That’s self-defense, and that’s the law in the Commonwealth of Virginia," Booth said.

Each case is unique. But Booth said a judge or jury will always look at whether there is that reasonable imminent fear of bodily harm.

“When you look at a house, a house is about as secure as you can get, no reasonable jury or judge in Virginia would expect that someone would climb out a back window to escape from someone breaking into their home. But here’s the trick: the person in that house still needs to have a reasonable and justifiable belief that they’re actually in fear of bodily harm," Booth said.

Click here to read what our sister station, WCNC, found about North Carolina's self-defense law.

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