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Do people need to retreat before defending themselves in Florida?

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2024 | Criminal Defense

People generally have the right to act in self-defense when they are at risk of imminent criminal activity. Those who fear for their safety due to the conduct or threats of another party can potentially engage in acts of physical violence with the intention of protecting themselves.

In Florida, as elsewhere in the United States, state law protects the right to self-defense. People can potentially even use lethal force in scenarios where the threat is significant enough to warrant aggressive defense attempts. Those arrested based on accusations of violent conduct sometimes respond to the charges that they face by mounting a self-defense claim. The details of the situation often have a direct impact on someone’s likelihood of success when asserting that they acted in self-defense.

Does someone seeking to protect themselves need to try to leave the situation before taking action?

Florida law clarifies the right of self-defense

The idea that someone has a duty to retreat can sometimes be reasonable. The expectation that someone might try to leave a dangerous situation before becoming violent themselves could prevent some situations from devolving into violence. In some jurisdictions, those claiming that they acted in self-defense must first try to leave a situation.

However, Florida has enacted a stand-your-ground law that largely eliminates the duty to retreat before engaging in self-defense. The Florida stand-your-ground statute allows people to use physical force, potentially including lethal force, when they believe such force is necessary for their own protection.

Provided that someone is in a location where they have the legal right to be, they have no obligation to try to leave before engaging in an act of self-defense. Those in their own homes, visiting friends or even patronizing businesses could act in self-defense without seeking to leave the situation first.

Occasionally, there can be complications to self-defense claims if someone trespassed or broke the law before an incident occurred. Prior conflict or evidence of the defendant instigating the situation could also affect the viability of a self-defense claim.

Those accused of violent criminal activity in Florida can sometimes successfully defend against pending criminal charges by asserting that they acted in self-defense. Learning more about Florida’s unique statutes may prove beneficial for those accused of violating the law.