Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

The stand-your-ground-law came about to give individuals the right to defend themselves or others against evident threats or perceived threats, even to the point of applying lethal force. While the law itself seems very straightforward, self-defense claims can be quite complex developments—especially in Florida, where the stand-your-ground-law is highly controversial.

In July 2018, the infamous Michael Drejka case shook the Florida community. Drejka fatally shot a man who shoved him to the ground in an argument over a parking space in Florida. The Pinellas County Police declined to arrest him under the stand-your-ground-law, inciting an outrage calling for reform.

Stand Your Ground Law Explained

The Florida Statute 776.012 states that a person has the right to use or threaten the use of force in defense of themselves or another person. The justifiable use of force is divided into two variables:

  1. A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against someone else to defend themselves or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. In this case, a person does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.
  2. A person is justified in using deadly force against someone else to defend themselves to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. In this case, a person has the right to stand their ground if the person going to use the deadly force is not engaged in criminal activity and is in a place they have a right to be.

As it stands, the stand-your-ground-law is highly complex and leaves much room for controversy. The cases under this law fight around the fine line of what’s considered self-defense in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Difference

The stand-your-ground-law came to effect in Florida back in 2005. Immediately, it created many controversies. Before this law, a person could only use non-deadly force to defend themselves against the imminent use of unlawful non-deadly forces. At this point, unless the person was in their home or workplace, they had a “duty to retreat” before using deadly force.

Once the law came into effect in 2005, the stand-your-ground-law introduced the presumption that a defendant could make a self-defense claim if:

  • The defendant had a reasonable fear that deadly force was necessary to defend him or herself; and
  • The intruder intended to commit an unlawful act involving violence.

In essence, the stand-your-ground-law expands the “Castle Doctrine” by escalating the concept of one’s “castle” by including any place where a person is lawfully entitled to be.

Unlike other states with stand-your-ground-law, Florida’s law is different as it states that:

  • A person has “no duty to retreat.”
  • The state’s law provides immunity from criminal prosecution.
  • The burden shifts onto the state to prove that the shooter did not act in self-defense or under the stand-your-ground-law immunities.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law 2019 Updates

Also, in December 2018, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the stand-your-ground statute will apply to police officers, just as it does to civilians. The ruling extended the boundaries of justifiable homicides, granting police officers immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution, and a jury trial if they claim to have used deadly force in self-defense.

Stand Your Ground Cases & Statistics

To date, many self-defense claims in South Florida have pushed the limits of the stand-your-ground-law in the state. Some of the most controversial and notable ones include:

  • The 2012 fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman who claimed self-defense. Following nationwide protests, a special prosecutor was assigned the case, and Zimmerman was charged with murder in 2013.
  • In 2009, a neighborhood dispute over dogs turned deadly when Oscan Delbono shot Shane Huse, saying he thought his life was being threatened.
  • A verbal dispute in Clearwater, Florida over the number of trash bags allowed on the curb lead to a confrontation that turned deadly. Kenneth Allen shot his neighbor, Jason Rosenbloom, claiming Rosenbloom tried to enter Allen’s home. Allen was not charged under the stand-your-ground-law.

Beyond the most buzzworthy cases surrounding the stand-your-ground-law, some argue the law can be linked to the increase in both overall homicides and gun-related homicides in Florida. According to a team of researchers, the gun murder rate in the state rose by 31.6 percent after the stand-your-ground-law was enacted, and the monthly overall murder rate rose by 24.4 percent.

Through this research, the Center for American Progress determined that since 2006, the lives of 4,200 individuals in Florida who were murdered with a gun may have been avoided has this law not been enacted.

Claiming Self-Defense in Pompano Beach

Under the current law, a person can raise the issue of self-defense at a pretrial hearing or trial. It falls on the judge to find if the actions are justified. If the judge doesn’t see the actions justified, the defense can still be presented in court, so a jury can decide whether or not the actions were justified.

Self-defense claims can involve a criminal conviction. Don’t let this possibility become a burden in your future, especially when you may be able to claim self-defense. If you or someone you know is facing a self-defense claim in Florida, contact the offices of Long & Jean, P.A. Our criminal defense attorneys will guide you through the process of filing a self-defense claim to make sure your rights are respected. Criminal charges can result in life-altering consequences; don’t let that happen to you or your family. Start by filling out our complimentary and confidential case-study form today.