Facing any kind of criminal charge is frightening. When the criminal offense is a violent one, the charges often carry significant consequences. That’s why it’s so important for anyone facing these kinds of charges to consider all of their legal options.
Mounting a defense usually requires developing a strategy. In some cases, you may be able to assert that you were only acting in an attempt to defend yourself or someone else nearby. This kind of affirmative defense could mitigate the consequences of violent criminal charges, ranging from assault or battery offenses to murder charges in Florida.
Florida has some relatively unique laws regarding self-defense, including its well-known “stand your ground” law. Familiarizing yourself with these laws and your rights can help you strategize for court.
Florida law permits the use of force to defend yourself or another person
Typically speaking, using physical force against another person is a crime. Any form of bodily contact intended to cause harm is against the law. The exception is when you use force because you have a reasonable fear that the other party will soon use unlawful force against you. Whether someone is brandishing a weapon or making verbal threats, a situation can quickly escalate to a point where you do not have any option other than to defend yourself.
There are also legal justifications for the use of deadly force. If the person acting in self-defense believes that the other party presents a risk of imminent death, great bodily harm or a forcible felony, they can use deadly force to protect themselves and others.
Unlike in other states, the person asserting self-defense does not have an obligation to attempt to leave the situation in Florida. That right is the basis of the state’s stand your ground law.
Florida’s stand your ground law means you don’t have to flee from someone
In many states, unless something happens in your own home, the law presumes you should first attempt to leave the situation before applying force to protect yourself. Florida does not enforce that same standard.
Instead, Florida law allows someone to defend themselves or another person without first attempting to retreat. This right has recently expanded. In 2017, lawmakers changed the wording of the law. The courts should now presume that a person had the right to stand their ground, and prosecutors must prove that the case does not fall under stand your ground laws.
Self defense is not always the best way to defend against a crime
Using a self-defense strategy in court can be very successful, particularly if there are witnesses who can corroborate your version of events. For other people, claims of self-defense can quickly fall apart.
If there are witnesses or security camera footage that show you initiating the argument or that challenge your assertion that you were afraid of potential violence, claims of self-defense likely won’t stand up in court. Anyone facing violent criminal charges in Florida who hopes to use a self defense strategy in court should review all the evidence and the situation leading to the arrest very carefully before heading to court.