Enacted in 2005, the Florida Stand Your Ground Law immediately drew national media coverage. Gun advocate groups saw this as an expansion of their right to use deadly force when they feel threatened or when deadly force is imminent, while others saw this as turning back the clock and going back to the days of the wild west.
Lawmakers have tried to repeal the law, most recently in February of 2021, according to NPR. This isn’t the first time Democrats have tried to repeal the law. In fact, they have tried every year since 2012 when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
This law is based on the “castle doctrine” where individuals have the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves against an intruder in their home. The castle doctrine dates back to the 1600s in England and was adopted when settlers crossed the Atlantic.
Understanding Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law
Defined by Florida Statutes 776.012 and 776.013, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and has no duty to retreat if either:
- The individual argues that such power is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm to himself or another, or
- the avoidance of a forcible felony.
Under Florida’s law, if you are legally allowed to be somewhere, such as your home, vehicle, or business, you do not have a “duty to retreat” (try and get away) before using deadly force.
The law protects certain actions from civil liability and criminal prosecution. This aids in protecting someone who was merely trying to protect themselves.
Prior to this law being enacted in 2005, a person could only use non-deadly force against unlawful non-deadly force. Deadly force was only allowed for defense against imminent deadly force or great bodily harm.
The goal of the Stand Your Ground law is to protect individuals who discharge a firearm or use force in self-defense to protect themselves when they believe there is a threat to their life or the lives of those they live with.
When making a self-defense claim, two things must be proven:
- The Defendant had a reasonable fear that deadly force was necessary; and
- The intruder intended to commit an imminent forcible felony or an act likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.
Stand Your Ground should only be used as a defense when someone confronts an intruder trying to enter their home, vehicle or business. If harm, whether deadly or not, comes to the intruder threatening the individual, no charges should be filed. If a law enforcement officer wishes to file charges, they must prove the law does not apply to the situation.
If an arrest is made, then the Defendant has the right to a pre-trial hearing on the matter. At such a hearing, once a Defendant establishes a prima facie case of justified use of force, the burden is on the prosecution to prove otherwise by clear and convincing evidence.
The Stand Your Ground law may not be applicable to every situation. Furthermore, the law sometimes changes, amendments are made, and courts set new precedents. Whether you are in Orange County, Seminole County, Lake County, Osceola County, or anywhere in Florida, it is important to have an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney on your side.