Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is a self-defense law that allows individuals to protect themselves or their property through the use of force.
Before it was enacted, individuals who were under threat were expected to do their best to remove themselves from the situation (called the duty to retreat). Stand Your Ground removed that barrier, allowing individuals to act with force in certain situations.
While the law has been on the books since 2005, there are still a lot of questions about when it applies and how to claim self-defense after an arrest. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the FL Stand Your Ground law.
What Does Florida Stand Your Ground Law Actually Say?
FL Statute 776.013, the FL Stand Your Ground Law, says:
A person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to use:
(a) Non-deadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force; or
(b) Deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
The statute goes on to state the circumstances under which a person is believed to be reasonably afraid and as well as when the law does not apply. For example, you cannot claim self-defense if a law enforcement officer enters your home as part of his official duties or if the “self-defense” occurred while you were committing a crime.
2017 Stand Your Ground Expansion Law
In order to take a case where a shooter has claimed a Stand Your Ground exemption, prosecutors must illustrate that the accused did not act in self-defense during pre-trial hearings. Otherwise, the prosecutor cannot charge the defendant or take the case to court.
This has bolstered the FL Stand Your Ground law and made it one of the strongest 2nd Amendment laws in the country.
Yet despite this, there are still individuals who are charged with a crime even though their actions were a result of self-defense.
Does the FL Stand Your Ground Law Only Apply to Shootings?
While Stand Your Ground is often referenced when a self-defense shooting has occurred, it also covers other situations in which an individual uses force to protect themselves. Stand Your Ground covers “defensive force.” Whether someone uses a bat, a kitchen implement, or even their fists—i.e., whatever’s around when the threat materializes—as long as they are acting to protect themselves from a reasonably perceived danger, they can claim Stand Your Ground.
How is Self-Defense Proven?
As previously mentioned, the onus is on the prosecution to show that a defendant was not defending himself or herself from a perceived threat in order to take a case to court. If they succeed, it’s up to a skilled defense attorney to illustrate how their client only took action because they believed their life was in danger.
To do this, your defense attorney will need to illustrate how you perceived the other individual as threatening—this can be because they verbally threatened you, because they were armed, or because they illegally trespassed on your property. This is crucial for showing that your actions were justified given the circumstances. Basically, you must show the judge and jury that you would not have acted to protect yourself had you not feared for your life or your wellbeing.
Once your Tampa defense lawyer has laid out the case and shown that your actions were in line with Stand Your Ground, it’s up to the jury.
Can Domestic Violence Victims Use the FL Stand Your Ground Law?
Stand Your Ground explicitly states that an individual cannot claim that they were afraid for their lives against someone who lawfully lives with them unless they have a protection order against that individual. However, not all victims of domestic violence have protection orders. While it’s a good idea to get a protection order against an abuser, some victims feel that doing so could make the situation worse.
While the wording of the statute can make it unclear, it’s important to note that Stand Your Ground aims to allow everyone to protect themselves. If a victim of abuse fears that their life is in immediate danger—meaning they are being assaulted or threatened in the present moment—they can certainly act to protect themselves and claim self-defense.
It gets a bit trickier when an individual acts at a point when they are not in immediate danger. While they may be a victim of domestic abuse, the expectation is that they will seek an injunction against their abuser or otherwise leave the dangerous situation. An individual who fatally injures their attacker when they are not under immediate threat may be covered under Stand Your Ground, or they may need to face a trial depending on the situation. Because so much depends on the details, it’s crucial to seek legal advice from a Tampa defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Happens if a Prosecutor Brings Charges Despite it Being Self-Defense
If a prosecutor is able to convince a grand jury or a judge “in a clear and convincing manner” that they believe the defendant did not act in self-defense or that their case didn’t qualify for Stand Your Ground protections, it is up to a defense attorney to illustrate otherwise during court or through negotiation with the prosecutor.
Stand Your Ground—Hire a Skilled Tampa Defense Attorney
If you’re being investigated for a crime or if you’ve been charged with a crime, get Mike G Law on your side.
Securing representation early on can help you protect your rights, especially in a case of self-defense. Because a prosecutor must show that you did not act in self-defense and since anything you say can be used against you, a defense attorney can help you navigate the confusing legal terrain while also ensuring a prosecutor doesn’t overstep or otherwise jeopardize your freedom. Call Mike G Law today and protect your future.