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What does it mean to stand your ground?

If an intruder enters your home at night, someone follows you while you walk through a dark parking lot to your car, or you encounter someone who threatens you, you may feel fear. This is a normal reaction, and in many cases, that fear can save your life by prompting you to flee. However, running away is not always the ideal response to a threatening situation.

When your life or the lives of your loved ones are in danger, your next instinct may be to move to defend yourself. In fact, even those who are not fighters are often surprised when a primal reaction kicks in when faced with a threat against themselves or someone they love. In most states, the law requires you to flee such situations. However, what happens in Florida when you stand your ground?

Stand your ground basics

Florida is one of several states with "stand your ground" laws. These laws allow you to use deadly force as a first response when you feel your life is at risk. In other words, "stand your ground" means you do not have to try to escape the situation first. You may stay put and defend yourself without fear that you will face criminal or civil penalties for the outcome. In fact, recent changes in the state's stand your ground laws benefit those who exercise their right to defend themselves.

Until recently, if you stood your ground and used lethal force against someone whom you perceived as a threat, you would have to prove to the court that you acted in fear for your life. The law changed recently to shift the burden of proof to the prosecutor, who now must show that your actions were not self-defense or were an excessive use of force for the circumstances.

It won't be easy

In recent years, several stand your ground cases have gained national attention. The outcome of those cases shows that, even with a state law protecting your right to defend yourself and your loved ones, you may not always obtain the resolution you expect. Stand your ground is a controversial law. Some critics insist that the law allows for violence against certain races because of stereotypes.

Nevertheless, if you had the misfortune of having to invoke your right to stand your ground, you may be facing legal challenges that seem overwhelming. You may gain some peace of mind by having a skilled attorney who has experience defending those who used lethal force as a means of self-protection.

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