Florida enacted a law in 2005 that expanded the legal right to use force in self-defense beyond what was previously permitted under the common law; the statute is commonly referred to as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” The old law generally required a person to retreat before they could use deadly force to defend themselves from the actions of someone presenting an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.
Understanding the Florida Stand Your Ground statute is of grave importance to every Tampa and Hillsborough County resident before they resort to using deadly force or even non-deadly force in self-defense or in defense of others. Stechschulte Nell is an experienced, certified criminal defense legal firm whose attorneys specialize in providing the most aggressive and effective criminal defense in the most serious criminal cases. We want you to know how the Stand Your Ground Law can affect your life and your family before you act.
The Stand Your Ground Law – Immunity from Prosecution
The Stand Your Ground Law is entitled “Justifiable Use of Force.”
Before the Florida legislature enacted Stand Your Ground in 2005, the common law which had developed over centuries required a person who feared they were about to suffer imminent serious bodily injury or death to retreat before they were justified in using deadly force in self-defense. This requirement to flee or escape, if possible, rather than respond with deadly force was controversial because it sometimes allowed otherwise sympathetic victims to be criminally charged with murder, manslaughter, or felony assault.
Now, under our Stand Your Ground statute, the duty to retreat before using force is abolished in Florida, but only under very limited circumstances.
Who Can Use Deadly Force — Immunity from Prosecution Under the Stand Your Ground Law?
The Stand Your Ground Law changed the evidence on which police and prosecutors could base criminal charges. The statute addresses two levels of force, deadly and non-deadly force.
Using Non-deadly Force: Non-deadly force is force not likely to cause death or great bodily harm. Using less than deadly force is justified when you reasonably believe it’s necessary to defend yourself from the imminent use of unlawful force by another. You need not run away or yield the location to the aggressor. This non-deadly force can also be used to defend a third person from the same imminent threat.
This application of self-defense law is significantly different from the earlier common law because the duty to retreat if possible before using force is eliminated by the Stand Your Ground Law.
Using Deadly Force – No Retreat Required: Deadly force is what a reasonable person would consider likely to cause death or great bodily harm. The previous law generally required a homeowner to make reasonably attempts to flee from their house instead of using deadly force against an intruder. Over time, that legal doctrine fell out of favor and the law gradually developed exceptions permitting homeowners to protect their homes and families with increasingly higher levels of force.
Presumption of Reasonable Fear of Death or Serious Bodily Harm:
Florida Stand Your Ground Law declares that certain circumstances create a legal presumption that a person using or threatening to use deadly force reasonably feared imminent death or serious bodily harm to themselves or one of their immediate family members. That presumption means that the deadly force user does not need to convince anyone that their fear was genuine, or to try to describe its intensity. Instead, a prosecutor would need to present evidence to rebut that presumption if criminal charges were filed against the person using the force.
The deadly force user enjoys this presumption of reasonable fear when,
- the person against whom the deadly force was threatened or used
— was or had illegally and forcefully entered a dwelling, home, an occupied vehicle
— or if the person did or was trying to remove another person from a dwelling, home, or vehicle against their will.
- the person using the force knew that person against whom the force was or had illegally forced their way into the dwelling, home, or occupied vehicle or was attempting to remove another from such locations or had done so.
There is NO PRESUMPTION if any of these circumstances are present:
- the person against who the force is used has the right to be in the dwelling, home, or vehicle and they are not enjoined by a no contact order or other protective order against domestic violence:
- the person being removed against their will is a child who is in their legal custody or guardianship of the person against whom force was threatened or used;
- the person using the force is engaging in criminal activity;
- the force is used against a someone reasonably identifiable as a police officer and who is acting withing the scope of their duties.
Does Stand Your Ground Mean You Can’t Be Arrested?
The intent of the Stand Your Ground Law was to protect law-abiding people from being criminally charged when they use deadly or non-deadly force against a person unlawfully threatening them with death or grave injury.
But police and other investigators may not accept a suspect’s version of events, and without corroborating evidence, a person who used deadly force while standing their ground under the statute may still be arrested and prosecuted.
You Need Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers When You Stand Your Ground
The Stand Your Ground Law is usually an issue when someone is killed or seriously injured by someone who stood their ground. If criminal charges are filed, the charge could be as serious as murder. Only the most experienced criminal defense lawyers are qualified to defend so momentous an allegation.
Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law are among the few Tampa or Hillsborough County criminal defense firms whose lawyers are certified as qualified criminal defense lawyers. Attorney Ben Stechschulte worked as a prosecutor of major crimes before devoting himself to the defense of the accused.
Stand Your Ground can protect a person who used deadly force only when the criminal justice system works properly, as designed. That’s exactly what Stechschulte Nell provides each of their clients.
If you stood your ground, call Stechschulte Nell today; (813)280-1244.