- Stand Your Ground: What does it Mean For You and Your Family?
- April 29, 2014
- Law Firm: The Law Office of James Davis P.A. - Jacksonville Office
Both the Zimmerman trial - which saw George Zimmerman released after the jury determined that he used legitimate self-defense under the law - and the more recent Michael Dunn trial, which resulted in a hung jury, have kept the nation's attention on this important law for Floridians. Here's what you need to know about the rule and how it affects you.
The Law Varies from State-to-State
If you are a new transplant to Florida, it is important to know how Florida's rule may differ from where you came from.
There are three approaches states have taken to the right to self-defense:
- Duty to Retreat
The duty to retreat exists in about nineteen or twenty states and requires that a person attempt to remove themselves from the threatening situation as much as reasonably possible before using deadly force to stop an intruder. You also must have not deliberately provoked the attacker or escalated the situation.
- Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine is similar to the Duty to Retreat, as a homeowner can use deadly force to protect themselves in their place of abode without having to find shelter elsewhere. The homeowner needs to reasonably believe that they are in imminent threat of drastic harm or death. Most states allow the use of deadly force if an attack happens in the home without retreating, even if outside the home they would require that the person being attacked try to retreat first.
- Stand Your Ground
Under the Stand your Ground doctrine, a person can use deadly force to protect themselves from the imminent threat of extreme injury or death anywhere, even outside of the home and in public places. Florida's law permits someone to use deadly force to prevent “the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” The law in Florida also allows someone to use deadly force to protect others.
What does Stand Your Ground mean for you?
- The Stand Your Ground law is only a defense to the use of deadly force. There is a bill in the Florida House which would stop courts from having to impose mandatory minimum sentences for the threatened use of force, however it has not been passed yet.
- The right to self-defense is a defense to a charge of murder, homicide, or manslaughter. It does not prevent the police from charging you with the crime, and the failure to raise the defense can result in you going to prison even if you were only protecting your family. A qualified and attentive attorney can ensure that it is raised properly and argued as well as possible.
- Don't use deadly force unless it is a last resort. While the law is designed to protect those who need it, a call to the police to handle someone lurking around or being threatening is a much better first resort. Proving self-defense can be difficult depending on the facts in the case, and witnesses may have different interpretations of the defendant's actions. Preventing the need to use deadly force in the first place, or allowing the police to make that decision can save your family a great deal of media attention and ensure that you do not get wrongfully charged for defending yourself or your family.
Hopefully you never encounter a situation where you need to use deadly force to defend yourself or your family, but if you do, it is important to retain a criminal defense attorney to handle your case.