Stand Your Ground Law: Vermont

Vermont is definitely an interesting state when it comes to self defense laws. First, Vermont could be argued to be one of the longest standing and gun-friendliest states in the Union since it was the very first to enact permitless, so-called constitutional carry of firearms.

On the other hand, what laws there are concerning self-defense are sparsely written, and nowhere in the statutes is there codified any sort of stand-your-ground law or provision.

flag of Vermont

However, Vermont courts have tried many cases of self-defense and consistently ruled time and again that, so long as the self-defense act was justified, citizens have no duty to retreat wherever they might be when confronted with the threat of death, great bodily injury or a forcible felony.

Here is hoping it stays that way, but keep reading to get the full scoop on Vermont’s self-defense laws and be sure to check out the jury instructions and statutes at the end of the article.

What You Need to Know

  • Vermont allows citizens to meet the unlawful use of force or the commission of a forcible felony with an appropriate level of force wherever the citizen happens to be, so long as they are there legally.
  • Though Vermont has no stand your ground law or other provision among its state statutes, case precedent and standing jury instructions have long held consistently that citizens have no obligation to retreat from any place they happen to legally be.

General Provisions

The law in Vermont is refreshingly clear when it comes to self defense. So long as they’re acting reasonably, a citizen may respond to the imminent, threatened use of deadly force, infliction of great bodily injury or commission of a forcible felony with lethal force of their own and they have no obligation to retreat from any place that they legally occupy, including a public space or their own homes.

However, it must be noted that nowhere in Vermont’s state statutes, laws or other codes is there any passage describing a stand-your-ground law or any such thing.

Though the state’s laws are clear and concise, Vermont is only considered a stand-your-ground provision state due to its long history of trying cases of self-defense and affirming the defender’s right to stand their ground so long as they are acting justly

Restrictions

No additional restrictions.

Assessment

Vermont is a pretty unique state when it comes to self-defense law. On the one hand, it technically isn’t a stand-your-ground state since the appropriate laws and verbiage appear nowhere in the state statutes.

On the other hand, Vermont has a long and distinguished history of ruling in cases of self-defense that go to trial that a defender has no obligation to retreat from any place they may legally be if forced to use any level of force and legitimate self-defense.

Relevant Vermont Use of Force Statutes

Following excerpts taken from Vermont Model Criminal Jury Instructions

SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1CR07-101 11/09/07

SELF-DEFENSE

The issue of self-defense is presented in this case. If (Def)_______________ acted in lawful self-defense, then [his] [her] actions are excused, and [he] [she] is not guilty of any crime.

(Def)_______________ is not required to prove that [he] [she] acted in self-defense. Instead, the State must have proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that [he] [she] did not act in self-defense.

[He] [she] had a right to use a reasonable amount of force to defend [himself] [herself], if [he] [she] reasonably believed the following three things:

1. that [he] [she] was in immediate danger of bodily harm;

2. that the use of force was necessary to avoid this harm; and

3. that the amount of force [he] [she] used was necessary.

A person acting in self-defense may only use the amount of force that reasonably appears to be necessary under the circumstances. Whether (Def)_______________’s actions were justified as self-defense depends upon whether it reasonably appeared to [him] [her] that it was necessary to use the force that [he] [she] actually used. If [he] [she] used more force than was reasonably necessary to avoid injury, then [he] [she] did not act in self defense.

THE AGGRESSOR AND SELF-DEFENSE OR DEFENSE OF ANOTHER

If, however, the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that (Def)_______________ was the aggressor in this confrontation, then you may not find that (Def)_______________ acted in lawful [self defense] [defense of another]. An aggressor is one who:

(1) started the confrontation by first using force or the threat of immediate use of force, and

(2) did not regain the right of [self defense] [defense of another] by effectively withdrawing from the confrontation.

To have effectively withdrawn from the confrontation, (Def)_______________ must have made reasonable efforts under the circumstances to notify (victim)_______________, by word and by deed, that [he] [she] was withdrawing.

SELF-DEFENSE (USE OF DEADLY FORCE)

Evidence has been introduced bearing on the issue of self-defense, as justification for the [killing of (victim)_______________] [use of deadly force by (Def)_______________]. The State bears the burden of proving that the [killing] [use of deadly force] was unlawful. A [killing] [use of deadly force] committed in lawful self-defense is lawful, and not a crime. Here the State must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense. [He] [She] has no burden of proof on this issue.

A person has the right to defend [himself] [herself] when [he] [she] is attacked, or when [he] [she] reasonably believes [he] [she] is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. A person in that situation has the right to use only such force as is reasonably necessary to repel the attack or the perceived imminent danger.

A [killing] [use of deadly force] is justified by self-defense if:

(1) (Def)_______________ reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of being killed or of suffering great bodily harm, and

(2) (Def)_______________’s use of deadly force was reasonably necessary to repel the perceived threat.

The right of self-defense does not require that a person actually be assaulted, but (Def)_______________ must have believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of great bodily harm, and [his] [her] belief must have been reasonable under the circumstances. [His] [Her] expectation of harm must have been based upon fact, and not on some imaginary fear. Furthermore, if [he] [she] honestly and reasonably believed it was immediately necessary to use deadly force to protect himself from an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, the law does not require [him] [her] to retreat.

Self-defense requires that (Def)_______________ must have had a reasonable fear of imminent harm. In deciding this issue, you may consider what [he] [she] knew about (victim)_______________ at the time. You may consider any previous interactions, including any aggressive or hostile conduct by (victim)_______________, and any other evidence you consider relevant, including who started the confrontation.

When assessing the reasonableness of (Def)_______________’s fear, you may consider the individual characteristics of (Def)_______________ and (victim)_______________, such as their respective size, gender, age, physical condition, strength, stamina, courage, and assertiveness.

Self-defense permits only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to repel the perceived harm. A person may use the amount of force that reasonably appears to be necessary under all of the circumstances known to [him] [her] at the time. In this case you must decide whether (Def)_______________ reasonably believed it was necessary to use the amount of force that [he] [she] did use. When a person has reasonable grounds to believe that an assault is imminent, [he] [she] need not wait until it actually occurs before [he] [she] may resort to self-defense.

Once the issue of self-defense appears in the case, the burden is on the State to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense, or that the force used by (Def)_______________ was excessive under the circumstances. (Def)_______________ is not required to prove that [he] [she] acted in self-defense.

SELF-DEFENSE, AND DEFENSE OF ANOTHER (USE OF DEADLY FORCE)

Introduction

Evidence has been introduced bearing on the issues of lawful self-defense, and lawful defense of another, as justifications for the killing of (victim)_______________. The State bears the burden of proving that the killing was unlawful. A killing committed in self-defense, or in defense of another, is justified by these defenses, and it is not a crime. Here the State must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that (Def)_______________ did not act in self-defense or in defense of another. (Def)_______________ has no burden of proof on these issues.

Self-Defense

A person has the right to defend [himself] [herself] when [he] [she] is attacked, or when [he] [she] reasonably believes [he] [she] is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. A person in that situation has the right to use only such force as is reasonably necessary to repel the attack or the perceived imminent danger.

A killing is justified by self-defense if:

(1) (Def)_______________ reasonably believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger of being killed or of suffering great bodily harm, and

(2) [his] [her] use of deadly force was reasonably necessary to repel the perceived threat.

The right of self-defense does not require that a person actually be assaulted, but (Def)_______________ must have believed that [he] [she] was in imminent danger, and [his] [her] belief must have been reasonable under the circumstances. (Def)_______________’s expectation of harm must have been based upon fact and not on some imaginary fear.

Self-defense requires that (Def)_______________ must have had a reasonable fear of imminent harm. In deciding this issue, you may consider what (Def)_______________ knew about (victim)_______________ at the time. You may consider any previous interactions, including any aggressive or hostile conduct by (victim)_______________, and any other evidence you consider relevant, including who started the confrontation.

When assessing the reasonableness of (Def)_______________’s fear, you may consider the individual characteristics of (Def)_______________ and (victim)_______________, such as their respective size, gender, age, physical condition, strength, stamina, courage, and assertiveness.

Self-defense permits only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to repel the perceived harm. A person may use the amount of force that reasonably appears to be necessary under all of the circumstances known to [him] [her] at the time. In this case you must decide whether (Def)_______________ reasonably believed it was necessary to use the amount of force that [he] [she] did use. When a person has reasonable grounds to believe that an assault is imminent, [he] [she] need not wait until it actually occurs before [he] [she] may resort to self-defense.

Defense of Another

(Def)_______________ also claims that [he] [she] acted in defense of (third person)_______________. A person may lawfully use deadly force in the just and necessary defense of the life of [his] [her] [wife] [husband] [parent] [child] [brother] [sister] [master] [mistress] [servant] [guardian] [ward]. If the necessary relationship exists, (Def)_______________’s actions in defense of (third person)_______________ were justified, if (third person)_______________ was in danger of being killed, or of receiving great bodily harm, or if (third person)_______________ reasonably appeared to be in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.

Here the killing was justified by defense of another if:

(1) (Third person)_______________ was (Def)_______________’s [wife] [husband] [parent] [child] [brother] [sister] [master] [mistress] [servant] [guardian] [ward]; and

(2) (Def)_______________ reasonably believed that [his] [her] use of force was necessary for the defense of (third person)_______________; and

(3) Under the circumstances, as they were reasonably perceived by (Def)_______________, (third person)_______________ would have had the right to use deadly force to protect [himself] [herself].

As with the issue of self-defense, the State must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that (Def)_______________ was not justified to act as he did in the defense of (third person)_______________. (Def)_______________ bears no burden of proof on these issues.

Following taken from Vermont State Statutes

2305. Justifiable homicide

If a person kills or wounds another under any of the circumstances enumerated below, he or she shall be guiltless:

(1) in the just and necessary defense of the person’s own life or the life of the person’s spouse, parent, child, sibling, guardian, or ward; or

(2) in the forceful or violent suppression of a person attempting to commit murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, or robbery; or

(3) in the case of a law enforcement officer as defined in 20 V.S.A. § 2351(a) using force in compliance with 20 V.S.A. § 2368(b)(2), (4), and (5) or deadly force in compliance with 20 V.S.A. § 2368(c)(1)-(4). (Amended 1983, No. 23, § 2; 2019, No. 165 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. July 1, 2021.)

2305. Justifiable homicide

If a person kills or wounds another under any of the circumstances enumerated below, he or she shall be guiltless:

(1) in the just and necessary defense of his or her own life or the life of his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, master, mistress, servant, guardian, or ward; or

(2) in the suppression of a person attempting to commit murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, or robbery, with force or violence; or

(3) in the case of a civil officer; or a military officer or private soldier when lawfully called out to suppress riot or rebellion, or to prevent or suppress invasion, or to assist in serving legal process, in suppressing opposition against him or her in the just and necessary discharge of his or her duty. (Amended 1983, No. 23, § 2.)

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