When Does Self-Defense Become a Crime in Florida?

Self-defense is a legal defense an attorney may use under certain circumstances when their client faces criminal charges. For example, pointing a gun at someone and intentionally pulling the trigger is an unlawful act. However, that act might have been self-defense if you had a reasonable belief that the other person would severely or fatally harm you.

This defense exists because of the belief that people have a right to defend themselves through proportionate force. Florida even extends this defense to permit the use of force to defend others. You must remember that self-defense may become a crime if the force used is not proportionate. When you face criminal charges in Orlando, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.

What Is Self-Defense in Florida?

When evaluating a self-defense claim in Florida, a defense attorney must first determine whether the individual used deadly force. Deadly force is any force that is likely to cause death or significant bodily harm. The state defines self-defense under statute 776.012 and includes the use of deadly and non-deadly force.

  • Self-defense using non-deadly force: A person is justified in using non-deadly force against another person if they reasonably believe it is necessary to defend themselves.
  • Self-defense using deadly force: A person is justified in using deadly force against another if they have a reasonable belief that their conduct is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

While the self-defense statute seems straightforward, this area of law is highly complicated. Therefore, if you face criminal charges and plan to claim self-defense, it is best to contact an Orlando defense attorney.

Questions to Ask Before Claiming Self Defense

Before you can claim self-defense, you must first answer a few questions. If you answer no to one or multiple of these questions, the use of self-defense may be a crime. Thus, it is essential that you consult with an attorney and accurately describe the situation.

Was the Threat Imminent?

Self-defense only applies to an imminent threat. Remember, the threat can be verbal as long as it puts the victim in fear of immediate physical harm. Offensive words or phrases without the threat of harm does not justify the use of self-defense. Additionally, self-defense generally loses justification once the threat of violence ends. For example, the danger may end if an aggressor assaults you but then walks away. Any use of force toward the assailant at that point may be considered retaliation.

Was the Fear of Harm Reasonable?

Sometimes a court may recognize self-defense even if the aggressor did not mean the perceived harm. In these situations, a court must determine if a reasonable person in a similar situation would have perceived an immediate threat of physical harm. For example, say two strangers are sitting on a bus bench. Unknown to one, a bee is buzzing around the other’s head, and that person begins to move his arms violently to get rid of the bee. The person sitting next to them does not know of the bee and hits them. A court might determine that the sudden and violent movement of a stranger’s hands justifies self-defense.

Was Your Response Proportional?

Self-defense laws require that the response match the threat level. Essentially, a person can only use as much force as required to remove the threat. For example, you might not be able to use self-defense if the threat only involved minor force, but you used force that could cause severe bodily harm or death.

Speak to a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney in Orlando Today

If you face criminal charges in Central Florida but believe you were acting in self-defense, contact The Umansky Law Firm. Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys will review all aspects of your case and determine whether self-defense is a viable claim.

With more than 100 years of combined experience, you can be confident that our lawyers will do everything possible to protect your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call (407) 228-3838 or complete our contact form today.