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Chances are you’ve probably heard about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The controversial law was passed in 2005 and is often cited as a victory for gun owners.

But what does the law really mean? It does not give gun owners permission to use their gun as they see fit. Instead, the law significantly expands the option to avoid prosecution for the use of deadly force by claiming self-defense under certain circumstances.

From our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers at Fletcher + Fletcher, here’s everything you need to know about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law

Self-Defense in Florida Law

Even before this law was passed in 2005, Floridians have always had the right to defend themselves against a serious threat of bodily harm.

Self-defense is a concept that has existed in Florida common law for centuries. The principle is that you have a right to use deadly force in self-defense if the following things are true:

  • You have reason to believe that you or someone else is in danger of serious bodily harm or death
  • You believe that deadly force is necessary in order to prevent that bodily harm or death
  • You have used every reasonable means within your power to retreat from the danger.

The last point is known as the “duty to retreat,” and was an important point in self-defense law. The “Castle Doctrine” was also used in Florida common law, and stated that the duty to retreat does not apply if you are in your own home or business.

The Castle Doctrine meant that if you are attacked by an intruder in your own home, you do not have a duty to use every reasonable means to retreat from the danger. The first two points still apply, however: you must have reason to believe that you are in serious danger and that deadly force is necessary to prevent that danger.

What the “Stand Your Ground” Law Really Means

As of 2005, as outlined in Sections 776.012, and 776.013 of the Florida Statutes, the “Stand Your Ground” law has expanded the circumstances under which you can claim self-defense in the case of deadly force.

  • The “duty of retreat” does not apply anywhere that you’re legally allowed to be
  • Legal justification for the use of force is automatically presumed if you’re in your dwelling, residence, or vehicle
  • You can obtain immunity from prosecution altogether if you fall within these circumstances

This first point is the most important. As long as you are legally allowed to be where the encounter occurred, you do not have the duty to retreat from someone attacking you. This means public spaces, private property that you are allowed to be on, etc.

This essentially expands the “Castle Doctrine” beyond the home to all places where a person is legally present. If you are engaged in committing a crime, or are not legally allowed to be there, you do still have a duty to retreat.

“Stand Your Ground” also creates a presumption that your use of deadly force was justified if the person attacking you illegally entered your home or vehicle. This means that, if someone breaks into your home and attacks you, and you use deadly force in self-defense, you do not have to do much to prove those three points of self-defense that we discussed in the previous section.

The final difference in “Stand Your Ground” is the immunity from prosecution. Previously, you would have had to prove that you acted in self-defense in a trial. Now, if you can show that you acted within the parameters of the “Stand Your Ground” law, you can avoid prosecution altogether.

Contact a criminal defense attorney today

If you’re facing charges for murder, manslaughter, or the use of a weapon, and you believe you acted in self-defense, the best thing you can do is contact a criminal defense attorney. At Fletcher + Fletcher, we are fierce advocates for our clients and will stop at nothing to defend their rights. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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