Florida criminal law is relatively confusing. A lot of people struggle to understand the nuances of the law as it could apply to them. For example, many people conflate stand your ground rights under Florida law with the right to self-defense. However, there is actually a world of difference between the two, including when they would impact your potential criminal case.
Self-defense is a legal term employed as part of a defense against existing criminal charges. You may claim self-defense as an affirmative defense against many kinds of violent crimes. What happens is that you agree with the state that you committed the act in question. However, you were not committing a crime because you acted out of an intention to defend yourself or someone else under imminent threat.
Stand your ground is different because it is not part of a criminal defense. Instead, it provides immunity from arrest and prosecution in cases where it clearly applies.
Stand your ground claims impact whether you face charges or not
In most states, in order to claim self-defense during a violent crime, you have to demonstrate that you attempted to retreat. In other words, before you can use force or the threat of force to resolve a situation, you have to establish that you could not have simply fled instead. Florida’s stand your ground law removes the obligation to retreat.
That means that if someone threatens you or someone with you, you have the right to defend yourself regardless of whether or not you initially attempt to leave. Instead, you have the right to use force, up to and potentially including deadly force, to defend yourself and the people with you.
There are critical exceptions to this rule, however, which include cases where the person claiming stand your ground was actually breaking the law at the time. Another exception could be situations involving state removal of minor children from a parent or grandparent. Stand your ground claims also do not apply when the other party is a law enforcement officer.
If you want to claim you needed to stand your ground, you likely need legal help
Describing an altercation in the wrong way could leave law enforcement questioning your stand your ground claim. In other words, everything you do immediately after an incident where you believe you qualify for stand your ground protections places you at risk.
One of the first things you should do in such a situation is contact a Florida criminal defense attorney who is familiar with your rights when it comes to cases of self-defense or stand your ground laws. An attorney can help you understand your rights, as well as the best way to proceed with the investigation following the incident.