What do you do if you are in a public place, or even in your own backyard for that matter, and a situation arises where another person threatens to harm you? Do you turn around and walk away? What if you firmly believe that turning your back on the angry person will place you at further risk for harm? If you are convinced that your situation may have life or death consequences, can you stand your ground and defend yourself? Do you know what Florida law says about it?
Typically, several types of self-defense laws are on the books of which you should be aware, as the differences can be quite confusing. Florida is actually one of many states that have implemented stand your ground laws. These laws recognize that if you face an imminent threat to your life, you have the right to defend yourself no matter where you are at the time.
Purpose of stand your ground laws
If you were to be involved in a situation where you had to use deadly force to protect your life, you’d never want there to be a question regarding whether you had a right to defend yourself. The following list explains basic facts regarding the purpose of the law, along with how it differs from other self-defense doctrines.
No obligation to retreat: Before stand your ground laws, you were obligated to attempt to retreat from a threat of violence rather than take lethal action against your assailant. The law only permitted the use deadly force as a last resort. In Florida and several other states, stand your ground laws remove the duty to retreat if you believe you are facing an imminent life-or-death situation. The law attempts to remove any confusion as to whether you had the right to act with deadly force to defend yourself under certain circumstances.
Prosecution: You may not face prosecution because you stood your ground and used deadly force to defend yourself in the face of an imminent threat if the circumstances of your situation meet the requirements of the law.
Immunity: Stand your ground laws vary by state and slight differences can have significant meaning. For instance, instead of acting as an affirmative defense, stand your ground laws can grant immunity from prosecution in some states.
Different from other doctrines: Stand your ground laws generally have broader reach regarding your location at the time you exert deadly force in self-defense. Other laws, such as the Castle Doctrine, specify location by limiting it to real property, such as inside your home, backyard or a business you own.
Florida’s stand your ground law has made national news on numerous occasions. These cases often create a significant amount of controversy, even within the state’s courts, because the perception of the individual using deadly force has a significant impact on the outcome. The individuals involved in these cases used such force against those they believed were threats to their lives.
Does this law apply to your case?
If you have lived through a similar experience where you believed your life was threatened, you may be able to apply this law to your particular situation. To be sure, you may wish to discuss the matter with an experienced criminal defense attorney who is well versed in Florida’s self-defense doctrines (including the stand your ground law). There are ways to protect your rights that may include asserting your right to stand your ground and defend yourself against what you believed was an immediate threat to your life.