In Florida, self-defense is an affirmative defense used to avoid punishment
for an otherwise unlawful act of violence. A self-defense claim aims to
excuse the violent offense on grounds that it was “reasonably necessary”
to prevent another individual’s imminent use of unlawful force.
In general, defendants in Florida can use the following two types of force
as an affirmative defense to justify their actions:
Non-deadly force – Force that is unlikely to result in death or great bodily harm,
which includes hitting or shoving another person. An individual is justified
in using non-deadly force when they have reason to believe that it is
necessary to defend against another’s imminent use of unlawful force.
There is no duty to retreat in these situations.
Deadly force – An individual can use or threaten to use deadly force in order
to prevent the imminent commission of “forcible felonies”
such as assault, kidnapping, or burglary. It is also permissible to prevent
imminent death or great bodily injury.
In 2005, the Sunshine State passed the first “stand your ground”
law in the country. The law allows Florida residents to fight back with
deadly force, rather than retreating, if they reasonably believe doing
so will “prevent death or great bodily harm.” Now, over 20
states have passed similar laws.
The essence of the stand your ground law is to affirm that there is no
duty to retreat an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present.
You are allowed to meet force with force, which includes deadly force
if it’s reasonably believed necessary to avoid death or great bodily
injury, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
So if you’re home and suddenly hear someone break into your residence
without consent, you have the legal right to use deadly force to protect
your life and prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
The issue of self-defense can be raised at a pretrial hearing or at trial.
If a judge determines the actions were justified, they must dismiss the
charges. On the other hand, if the judge doesn’t find the actions
were justified, the defense can still be presented in court so a jury
can decide whether the actions were justified.
A jury will examine what a reasonable person would have done under the
circumstances appearing to the defendant at the time of the incident,
which is known as the “objective standard.” Where the defendant
in a criminal case presents any evidence of self-defense, the State must
overcome the claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Self-defense is not available to those who:
- Engage in an unlawful activity and use defensive force
- Initially provoke the use or threatened use of force against himself or herself
If you have been arrested for a violent crime,
request a free consultation with our
Daytona Beach criminal defense lawyer at
Stepniak & Park today.