Self-Defense Under Florida Law – What Is It And How Can It Help My Case?
If you have been charged with assault or any type of violent criminal offense, you may be able to prove your innocence with a self-defense argument. Florida law recognizes that people sometimes need to protect themselves, a family member, or others from immediate threats of harm. Depending on the circumstances, physical force or even deadly force in self defense can constitute an affirmative defense to a criminal charge.
What is Self Defense Under Florida Law?
Under Section 776.012, Florida Statutes, the use of non-deadly force is justified “where 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.” There is no duty to retreat before using or threatening to use non-deadly force under Florida law. For example, if you hit, pushed, or injured someone in response to an imminent threat of harm to yourself, this may be justified under the Statute and provide a valid legal defense at trial or in pretrial proceedings.
Deadly force in self defense is also justified under Section 776.012, “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 self defense argument under this section is only available if the person asserting self defense was not engaged in a criminal activity, and was in a place where they had a right to be. (For example, a person holding up a liquor store or robbing a home cannot raise a self defense argument if someone ends up injured or killed.)
If the defendant was in their home or vehicle, under Section 776.013, Florida Statutes, Florida law presumes that the person had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm, and the use of force was “necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” A person who forcefully enters another’s home or vehicle is also presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence – therefore justifying violent force in return.
Under Section 782.02, Florida Statutes, deadly force is also justified when resisting “any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”
What is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law?
Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law, a person is justified in using deadly force (and does not have a duty to retreat) if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to “prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony or to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” Notably, Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law permits the use of deadly force in areas – including public spaces – “where he or she has a right to be”, and does not require a duty to retreat.
This law has gained significant notoriety in news media coverage, but remains a valuable defense if one commits fatal force during a dangerous incident outside of their home. Depending on the facts of your case, a skilled defense lawyer may be able to lay out this defense argument to have charges against you dismissed or reduced.
Raising the Issue of Self Defense in Court
Self defense is often raised at the outset of a case and in pretrial proceedings. It can also be raised at trial and in jury instructions, should a case get that far. A self defense claim under Florida law will depend on your testimony, witness statements, any camera footage, and any other physical or circumstantial evidence supporting a defendant’s argument. To assemble a strong defense, an Orlando area criminal defense attorney with experience in self defense cases can collect the facts and aggressively make your case in court.
Call Joshi Law Firm, PA, to Discuss Self Defense Claims in Violent Offenses
Navigating a successful self defense argument depends on the facts of your situation and how they apply within Florida’s self defense statutes. Given the stakes involved, you don’t want to hesitate or leave anything to chance. Our Orlando criminal attorneys at the Joshi Law Firm can review all evidence and circumstances of your case and build your defense. Contact us today for help.