In Florida, there are certain laws that dictate whether or not a person
is justified in using deadly force to protect themselves. Self-defense
claims that yes, a violent act did occur, but that act should be excused
on the grounds of a reasonable use of violence.
Most people believe that they are justified in using self-defense when
they determine the need to protect themselves from harm. Oftentimes, self-defense
involves some level of force or violence aimed towards the person they
are attempting to protect themselves from. Unfortunately, self-defense
often falls into a gray area. How much violence or deadly force is too
much? Did the defendant really need to use that much force to protect
When dealing with a case involving self-defense, it is crucial that you
retain the counsel of a seasoned
criminal defense lawyer in Tampa. Get more insight from
Thomas & Paulk below.
When Can Deadly Force Be Used in Self-Defense
Not all self-defense is as controversial as the
David Zimmerman case. In some cases, a defendant may use non-deadly force to protect themselves,
which can often make the situation much more straightforward. However,
when arguably deadly force is used, Florida law outlines only two instances
in which criminal charges or liability can be overlooked.
The use of deadly force may be justified when:
The force is used to prevent an imminent threat of a felony crime, bodily
harm, or death to the defendant or another person;
- The force will prevent the murder of the person or a felony from taking
place in the dwelling they are currently located.
These actions can be justified under two Florida Statutes sections, §776.012,
commonly known as “Stand Your Ground” Law, and §782.02.
It is generally assumed that any person unlawfully entering the property
of another person or attempting to remove a person from their property
is doing so with the intent of committing serious bodily harm or death.
Self-defense can be used if the person was where they were allowed to
be and reasonably feared for their safety. While some states mandate that
a person claiming self-defense makes an attempt to retreat before using
violence, Florida law allows any threat against a person's safety
to be a valid excuse to use force.
What If I Initiated the Incident?
Even if a person provoked the initial attack, they may still claim self-defense
if they withdrew from physical contact in good faith, indicated that they
wanted to withdraw, and the other person continued to use aggressive force
or started using
violence against them. In most cases, you must prove that you exhausted every reasonable
means to escape such danger other than the use of force prior to using
such force against the other individual.
When Can the Stand Your Ground Law Not Be Used?
Some people view §782.02 and the Stand Your Ground law as a free ticket
for violence as a response to any threat, however, this is not the case.
An individual may only act under these two Florida Statutes sections under
For example, self-defense cannot be claimed if defensive force is used against:
- Someone that had a right to be on or in that property
- The parent or legal guardian of a child being removed from their home or car
- Someone engaged in illegal activity only if both parties are participating
in illegal actions
- Law enforcement was already involved
How Are Self-Defense Claims Evaluated?
Ultimately, it is up to the jury to determine if self-defense can mitigate
the potential violent crime charges you are facing. As the defendant,
you are entitled to a jury instruction on self-defense in Florida, so
long as there is some evidence to support your claim of self-defense.
The standard for evidence is rather low, so it is likely that you can
get your defense examined. In some cases, you may not even have to bring
a witness forward or take the stand to prove self-defense—the State’s
evidence may be strong enough to lead to an acceptance of self-defense.
If your self-defense claim must go before the court, a jury will examine
the details to determine whether or not you acted the way a reasonable
person would have done in the same circumstances. If the jury does not
determine that the defendant acted in self-defense, then criminal charges