What is the “stand your ground’ self-defense law and how can I use it to defend myself against a criminal charge in Florida?

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Answered by: S. Patrick Dray

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Florida’s “stand your ground” law was passed in 2005. It is one of the most debated and controversial laws in America. In 2019, additional controversy was generated when the Florida Supreme Court extended the law to allow law enforcement officers to use the defense if they used deadly force in the line of duty.

The law is an extension of what was known as the “castle doctrine.” This doctrine allowed a person to use force to defend their home against intruders. Further, the person did not have a duty to retreat before using force inside their home.

The “stand your ground” law eliminated the general duty to retreat imposed by common law and extends the “castle doctrine” to public places. Under the new law, you do not have a duty to retreat from any location in which you are lawfully present before responding with an appropriate defense.

The statute provides that you are “justified in using or threatening to use deadly force” if you have a reasonable fear that you or someone else will be killed or badly hurt if you do not respond. You have the right to stand your ground and defend yourself against a lethal threat if you are in a place where you are legally allowed to be.

The law essentially codified two defenses that people often used after using deadly force to defend themselves. The first being that they had a “reasonable” fear for their safety, thereby justifying the use of deadly force. They believed that the other person was going to kill or badly injure them or someone else if they did not respond with a lethal act. The second being that the person they used force against had a criminal or violent intent.

In many states, a person who feels threatened must try to escape before they can use deadly force. If someone feels threatened in Florida, they are not legally required to retreat before they act.

Detractors say the bill allows gun owners to use deadly force when it could otherwise be avoided. People in favor say they have the right to defend themselves and others.

If you or a loved one used deadly force to protect yourself or another person, the “stand your ground” statute may be available to you as a defense.

“stand your ground” DEFENSE:

The “stand your ground” law states that you are justified in using deadly force and have no duty to retreat if you reasonably believed that deadly force was required to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another.

However, there is a burden of proof. You must show that deadly force was a reasonable response and that your situation met three important standards. In other words, you cannot use the defense if:

  • You used deadly force while committing a crime.
  • You intentionally provoked the attack.
  • The attack happened in a place where you had no legal right to be.

A reasonable response for the Level of Threat You Face

An important word in the “stand your ground” doctrine is “reasonable.” If you used deadly force, the court will require you to prove that your response was necessary and “reasonable.” If you have any questions about Florida’s “stand your ground” laws, it is best to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. This is a powerful law that provides a strong defense to people accused of crimes of violence. It is important that you understand your legal rights and how the law affects you or your family.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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