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Florida felons with guns can use the "stand your ground" defense

The Florida Supreme Court has recently, by remanding a case to the state's 4th District Court of Appeal, resolved the question of whether a convicted felon can use a firearm to defend himself and then use the Florida "stand your ground" law as a legal defense.

Whether felons have this right has been a subject of contention within the Florida legal system. The conflict arises from another Florida law that prohibits felons from possessing firearms. If a convicted felon uses a gun to defend himself, it has been argued that language in the stand your ground law itself precludes him from using a firearm because the law states that the defense is not available to anyone committing an "illegal act."

In two earlier cases, the 4th District Court of Appeal found the argument above to be persuasive and help that felons using guns to defend themselves could not take advantage of the stand your ground defense. But the 2nd District Court of Appeal had ruled in another case to the opposite effect: it held that a felon in possession of a firearm could use that firearm to defend himself and still seek to avoid prosecution by using the stand your ground law.

The Florida Supreme Court was prepared to resolve the difference between the two courts of appeal when it accepted one of the two 4th District cases for consideration. But before the Supreme Court could consider the matter, the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed itself and held that in the two earlier cases the defendants were in fact entitled to claim the stand your ground law as a criminal defense even though they were illegally in possession of the firearms that they used.

With the underlying difference between the two courts of appeal now resolved, the Florida Supreme Court declined to consider further appeals on the matter.

What this means is that if you have been convicted of a felony that would normally prohibit you from possessing a firearm, you can still use a firearm to defend yourself if you believe that it is necessary to avoid imminent death. This does not mean that such an argument would be successful. The impact of the Florida Supreme Court action is to allow you to make the argument so that the jury could decide, instead of having the argument rejected as a matter of law.

Source: Sun-Sentinel, "Stand Your Ground remains a possible defense for felons," Marc Freeman, Jan. 21, 2015

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