Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Murder Manslaughter > When Can You Argue Self-Defense to a Florida Jury?

When Can You Argue Self-Defense to a Florida Jury?


Not all use of deadly force is a crime under Florida law. For instance, a person charged with murder or manslaughter may argue, as an affirmative defense, that their use of deadly force was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to themselves or another person. Additionally, the use of force is justified in order to “prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

Sixth District Orders New Trial in Stabbing Death Case

It is up to a jury to decide whether a person accused of murder or manslaughter acted in self-defense. A trial judge must instruct the jury on self-defense if there is any evidence introduced at trial to support such a theory. If the judge refuses to issue such an instruction, that may be considered a reversible error if the jury ultimately finds the defendant guilty.

Indeed, the Florida Sixth District Court of Appeals recently overturned a second-degree murder conviction because the trial judge refused to issue a self-defense instruction. This case, Gonzalez v. State, involved the stabbing death of a man outside of his home. The defendant and the victim met earlier that day. Due to recently having a pacemaker installed, the defendant needed assistance moving some boxes, and he recruited the defendant at a local hardware store to assist him.

The two men drank beer that afternoon as they moved the boxes. The victim fell asleep on the defendant’s couch. Around 9 p.m., the defendant’s wife asked the victim to leave. The victim then stumbled out onto the defendant’s yard.

The defendant’s wife called the police, seeking help to get the victim out of her yard. When the police arrived, however, they found the victim “in a pool of blood with a stab wound in his chest,” according to court records. The defendant’s wife told the police that her husband had stabbed the victim with a knife from their kitchen.

The defendant himself told the police that he had asked the victim to leave. Instead, the victim turned around and punched the defendant in the jaw, grabbed him by the throat, and threw him to the ground. At that point, the defendant said he went back into his house, grabbed the knife, and came back outside to try and scare the victim off. But the victim grabbed the defendant by the throat again, so the defendant stabbed him.

The defendant exercised his constitutional right not to testify at trial. But the jury did hear the statements the defendant gave to the police. The defendant asked for a self-defense instruction, which the trial judge refused. The jury proceeded to convict the defendant of murder.

In reversing the verdict, the Sixth District said the evidence at trial “though slight” was enough to warrant giving a self-defense instruction. The appellate court emphasized that under Florida law, the use of deadly force is justified when the “defendant reasonably believed” that his own life was in danger. On that basis, the defendant was entitled to a new trial.

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

When you are on trial for your own life, it is imperative that the courts follow the rule of law and afford you every opportunity to defend yourself before a jury. An experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney can help make sure that happens. Call the Orlando murder defense lawyers at Joshi Law Firm, PA, at 844-GO-JOSHI today or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn