While Florida is well-known for having a “stand your ground” law, few people know what this law actually says. But, as a Florida resident, knowing what the law says is extremely important, because thinking the law protects you when it doesn’t could lead to criminal prosecution and long-term imprisonment.
So, what does Florida’s stand your ground law say, and when does it apply? Our defense lawyers explain:
Understanding Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law
The stand your ground law appears in Section 776.013 of the Florida Statutes. It begins by stating:
“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 . . . use or threaten to use: (a) Nondeadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend . . . 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 . . . or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
In other words, the stand your ground law allows for the use of nondeadly or deadly force when warranted in response to an actual or attempted home invasion. As a result, it can provide a defense to assault and homicide charges in appropriate cases.
However, stand your ground cases are far from straightforward, and there are several factors that can raise questions about whether the law applies under a given set of circumstances. For example, important questions in stand your ground cases in Florida include:
- Did the defendant have a reasonable belief? For the use of force to be justified, a person must “reasonably believe” that the use of force is necessary. A person is presumed to have a reasonable belief in the event of a home invasion (or apparent attempt at a home invasion). While some cases are fairly obvious (i.e., if a homeowner shoots an intruder in their bedroom), it won’t always be clear when the presumption comes into play.
- Did the defendant use proportional force? Under Florida’s stand your ground law, the use of deadly force is only permitted in response to a threat of “imminent death or great bodily harm” or “imminent commission of a forcible felony” (i.e., burglary or rape). In cases involving the use of deadly force, prosecutors may argue that the defendant’s use of such force was unwarranted.
- Do any of the law’s exceptions apply? Florida’s stand your ground law is subject to various exceptions. For example, it does not apply to business premises not designed for overnight lodging, and the presumption discussed above does not apply when a dwelling or residence is being used for criminal purposes.
Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Sarasota or Bradenton Defense Lawyer
If you are facing an assault or homicide charge and believe that Florida’s stand your ground law may protect you, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To discuss your case with an experienced defense lawyer in confidence, call (941) 900-3100 or request a free consultation online now. Our offices are located in Sarasota and Bradenton.