Understanding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

Understanding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” LawFlorida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is one of the most controversial regulations in the country because of its ties to high-profile cases, such as those of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin and Michael Drejka for the shooting of Markeis McGlockton. According to Florida Statute 776, which covers justifiable homicide, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is defined by the following terms:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

In other words, the law expands one’s right to use deadly force, anywhere, anytime, when they feel threatened or believe that violence is forthcoming. The following page discusses the history and present scope of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

The History of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law

Prior to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, deadly force was only authorized in the case of an imminent threat to someone’s life or the commission of a forcible felony. In all other non-deadly situations, a person could only use non-deadly force as a defense mechanism. Unless the person was in their home or workplace, they also had a “duty to retreat” prior to using deadly force.

That all changed in 2005 when the Florida Legislature enacted the highly divisive “Stand Your Ground” law. The decree expanded the scope of a self-defense claim traditionally available in a criminal case by:

  • Eliminating one’s “duty of retreat”
  • Presuming legal justification for the use of force in a person’s dwelling, residence, or vehicle
  • Offering immunity from prosecution for individuals who resort to force within the parameters of the statute

Simply put, a person doesn’t have a duty to retreat if they think deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. After the enactment of the law, no longer did a person have to first use every reasonable means within their power to retreat from the danger before using deadly force.

Florida was the first state to ever enact a “Stand Your Ground” ruling in some form. Today, 35 states have similar laws that remove a person’s duty to retreat. Stand-your-ground laws are frequently labeled “shoot first” laws by opposition groups. Self-defense claims nearly tripled in the years following the enactment.

When Does Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law Not Apply?

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law doesn’t allow you to use deadly force in any situation. The regulation only applies when a person has a clear reason to believe they are about to be the victim of serious violence. Here are the instances in which using deadly force for self-defense is illegal in Florida:

  • When the person who’s defending themself is engaging in some form of criminal activity
  • If a person uses deadly force against a law enforcement officer who is “acting in the performance of his or her official duties”
  • If the person using deadly force intentionally provoked the other party
  • If the other attacking party has already attempted to withdraw from the confrontation
  • If the person who uses force in self-defense is not in a place where they’re legally allowed to be

Under the Florida statute, prosecutors may establish that a person standing their ground is immune from criminal and civil liability. If the prosecutor determines that the Florida “Stand Your Ground” defense doesn’t apply, it then becomes the defendant’s obligation to raise the defense of standing your ground. Once the defendant determines all the elements of the defense, it then falls on the prosecution to prove through clear and convincing evidence that the defendant wasn’t standing their ground.

Contact an Attorney When Your Rights Are Threatened

If your rights have been threatened in questionable “stand-your-ground” instances, contact a lawyer to ensure you’re fairly represented. At The Umansky Law Firm, we understand how stressful self-defense claims can be, which is why we’re dedicated to making this process as easy as possible.

Establishing a defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute requires laying the framework from the beginning of the case. Experienced criminal defense attorneys like those at the Umansky Law Firm can help the prosecution understand the circumstances from your point of view. With that guidance, our attorneys may be able to prevent any charges from being filed.

With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our team has the time and expertise to launch an investigation into your case and the circumstances leading up to your arrest. We’ll work tirelessly to fight for your rights. Give us a call at (407) 228-3838 or complete our online contact form to receive a free consultation.