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Self-Defense

If you acted in self-defense, contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We fight cases involving self-defense by using deadly or non-deadly force. In 2017, the Florida Legislature passed new laws that make it easier for people accused of violent crimes - including murder - to assert a self-defense claim by shifting the burden of proof to prosecutors in pre-trial hearings.

Under this new legislation, during these pre-trial hearings, the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office has to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" why the defend shouldn't get immunity from prosecution. The Florida Legislature also passed legislation in 2017 to clarify Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law by removing the requirement that a person first be attacked in their home or vehicle before using or threatening to use force.

Self-defense claims often arise in the prosecutions of violent crimes such as battery, aggravated battery, assault, aggravated assault, and aggravated assault with a firearm. Also, any criminal offenses involving brandishing a firearm or weapon can involve a self-defense claim that acts as a legal justification that prevents a prosecution or provides an affirmative defense at trial.

In addition to being justified in using force to protect yourself, Florida law also provides for defenses related to defending another person or even defending property.

Attorneys for Self-Defense in Tampa, FL

If you were accused of committing a crime but you acted in self-defense, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. We can help you at every stage of the case. Keep in mind that after an arrest, the prosecutor typically makes a filing decision within 21 days. You need an attorney during this time period to contact the prosecutor about all of the reasons why the case should not be prosecuted and formal charges should not be filed.

It is particularly important to have an attorney during that 21 day time period after the arrest in any case involving a claim of self-defense. Call an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. We are focused exclusively on criminal defense. Call 813-250-0500 today.


The Use of Non-Deadly Force in Florida

Florida Statute Section 776.012, provides that a person is justified in the use of non-deadly force in self-defense when the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. Under Florida law, when the use of non-deadly force is justified, there is no duty to retreat.

In those cases in which the defendant is in his or her home or vehicle, Florida Statute Section 776.013 creates a legal presumption that the defendant had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm if the alleged victim unlawfully entered or remained or attempted to remove another person against their will.

Also, Florida law creates a legal presumption that a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter another’s home or vehicle is doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.


The Use of Deadly Force in Florida

Florida has two statutes that govern when the use of deadly force is justified. Florida Statute Section 776.012 is known as the “Stand Your Ground” Statute.

Under Florida's stand your ground statute, a person is justified in using deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony or to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute, a person who is justified in using deadly force has no duty to retreat.

Under Florida Statute Section 782.02, the use of deadly force is also justified when a person is resisting any attempt to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which the person is located.

Under Florida Statute Section 776.013, if a defendant is in his or her home or vehicle, then the law presumes that the defendant had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily harm if the alleged victim unlawfully entered or remained or attempted to remove another person against their will.

The law also presumes that a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter another's home or vehicle does so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

Under Florida law, no presumption of reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm applies if one of the following conditions apply:

  • the person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in the home or vehicle, or
  • the person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used, or
  • the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the home or vehicle to further an unlawful activity, or
  • the person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, who enters or attempts to enter the home or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer properly identified his or herself (or the person reasonably should have known that it was a police officer).

If a defendant was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked where he or she was allowed to be, then the defendant has no duty of retreat and has a right to use force, or even deadly force, if the defendant (under those circumstances) reasonably believed that his or her use of force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.


Additional Resources

Florida's Statute for the Justifiable Use of Force - Visit the website of the Florida Legislature to find Florida Statute under Chapter 776 that apply to the justifiable use of force (often called “self-defense”). Learn more about the use or threatened use of force for home protection, to protect another person, or in defense of property. Find information on when the defendant is entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution and civil actions for the justifiable use of force.


This article was last updated on Monday, December 18, 2017.