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Use of Deadly Force for Self-Defense

When defending yourself against an accusation that you committed a serious violent crime, one of the most important defenses available is the Florida use of deadly force for self-defense. Florida is one of twenty-one states with a "Stand Your Ground" or "Castle Doctrine" Defense.

Under Florida law, the actions of the accused made in lawful self-defense justify an act that is otherwise criminal. Self-defense can be asserted for any violence crime such as Assault or Battery, Aggravated Battery, Aggravated Assault, Manslaughter, Attempted Murder, or Murder.

Self-defense cases require a thorough investigation of all aspects of the case including the alleged victim's reputation and prior difficulties between the parties. Contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your arrest for any violent crime in the Tampa Bay area, including Polk County, Pasco County, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Manatee County or Sarasota County.

Justified Use of Deadly Force

If the defendant raises the issue of self-defense, then it is a defense under Florida law to the charged offense if the injury (or even death) of the alleged victim resulted from the justifiable use of deadly force.

Deadly force would include pointing a firearm at the alleged victim or using a weapon. In self-defense cases in Florida, the jury will be instructed that if the jury has a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, then they must find the defendant not guilty.

Force Necessary to Prevent Great Bodily Harm or Death

In Florida, deadly force is defined as force that is likely to cause great bodily harm or death. In order for the use of deadly force to be justified under Florida law, the defendant must have reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent imminent great bodily harm or death to himself or another while resisting one of the following:

  1. the alleged victim's attempt to commit a violent crime against him; or

  2. the alleged victim's attempt to kill him; or
  3. the alleged victim's attempt to commit a felony upon or in any home, boat, or vehicle occupied by the defendant.

Florida law also provides that the use of deadly force is not justified if the defendant is charged with an independent forcible felony, and the defendant was attempting to commit a felony or the defendant initially provoke the use of force against himself.

Use of Force Against a Law Enforcement Officer

Use of deadly force is not justified when resisting an arrested by a person who is known to be or appears to be a law enforcement officer. On the other hand, if a law enforcement officer uses excessive force to make an arrest, then the use of reasonable force is justified to defend the defendant or another but only to the extent the defendant reasonably believes such force is necessary.

The defendant must be judged by the circumstances in which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. Although the danger need not be actual, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonable person who is cautious and prudent acting under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force.

The defendant has no duty to retreat from a place where he has a right to be and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent great bodily harm or death to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Presumption of Fear in Self-defense Cases

When the defendant was in a dwelling, home, or occupied vehicle where he had a right to be, he is presumed to have a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another if the alleged victim unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, home or occupied vehicle.

Under the circumstances, the defendant has no duty to retreat. A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter another person's dwelling, home or occupied vehicle is presumed to have an intent to commit an unlawful violence act.

Prior threats or difficulties between the parties, the reputation of the alleged victim, and the parties physical abilities can all be considered in determining whether the defendant had reasonable grounds to believe he was in danger of great bodily harm or death.

If you believe that your case involves a legitimate claim of self-defense, contact a Tampa criminal lawyer to discuss your self-defense claim and learn ways to aggressively defend yourself against accusations of a violent crime in Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pasco County, Pinellas County or any of the surrounding areas throughout central Florida.


Information Center on Criminal Defenses Under Florida Law

Voluntary Abandonment - May excuse the criminal acts in preparation for a crime if the defendant voluntarily abandons the execution of the crime even when a co-defendant goes through with the execution of the criminal act. Important defense in any criminal charge related to conspiracy.

Self-Defense - Use of Non-deadly Force - Criminal act may be excused when committed with non-deadly force to avoid a greater harm such as defending self, others, or property.

Independent Act Defense - An intervening act by another may break the causation chain of criminal liability.

Florida Entrapment Defense - When an undercover officer or confidential informant is involving in setting up another person for during a set up or sting operation, this defense may bar prosecution.

Speedy Trial Provisions in Florida - If the prosecutor does not bring the case to trial with in certain time limits, prosecution may be forever barred.

Police Misconduct, False Arrest, Civil Rights Violations - In any criminal case, the motive or bias of a witnesses may be relative. If the police are involved in any corrupt act, used excessive force, make a wrongful arrest, or other civil rights violations, the misconduct can bar the prosecution or be used as a defense at trial.