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Florida's “Stand your Ground” Law

Section 776.032, Florida Statutes (2009) is commonly referred to as "Stand Your Ground" Law or the "Castle Doctrine." In passing the Stand Your Ground law the legislature determined “that it is proper for law-abiding people to protect themselves, their families, and others from intruders and attackers without fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others.” Ch. 05–27, at 200, Laws of Fla.

Under Florida law, “[a] person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” § 776.013(3), Fla. Stat. (2007).

Senate Bill 1052 on Changes to Florida's Stand your Ground Law 

As of March 17, 2017, Senate Bill 1052 is currently pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The analysis for the proposed legislation is intended to correct an apparent drafting error caused by 2014 legislation amending s. 776.013(3), F.S., a statute governing the right to self-defense in a person’s dwelling, residence, or vehicle. The relevant provision now states: “A person who is attacked in his or her dwelling, residence, or vehicle has no duty to retreat” and has the right to use or threaten to use defensive force. 

As a result of the error, the statute implies that a person’s rights to self-defense do not begin until the person is physically attacked. However, another subsection of the same statute and other statutes governing the right to use defensive force are clear—the right to use force or threaten to use force begins when a person reasonably believes that using or threatening to use force is necessary to prevent or terminate another person’s use of unlawful force.

Accord to the analysis of the proposed legislation, the bill revises s. 776.013(3), F.S., in a way that is consistent with the other statutory provisions governing the right to use defensive force.

Stand Your Ground Statutes in other States

Some twenty-one (21) states have some form of the Stand Your Ground or Castle Doctrine law including:

  • Florida; 
  • Georgia;
  • Texas;
  • Oklahoma;
  • Michigan;
  • Arizona;
  • Kansas;
  • Mississippi;
  • Utah;
  • Wyoming;
  • Alabama;
  • Indiana;
  • Missouri;
  • North Carolina;
  • Ohio;
  • Rhode Island;
  • Alaska;
  • Kentucky;
  • West Virginia;
  • Tennessee;
  • Illinois;
  • Maine;
  • South Dakota;
  • Montana;
  • Iowa;
  • Louisiana;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • South Carolina; and
  • North Dakota.

Pre-trial Motions for Immunity from Prosecution under Stand Your Ground

Section 776.032 provides that, in certain circumstances, a person may use deadly force to stand his ground against an attacker and be free from the fear of prosecution. The statute effectively “grants defendants a substantive right to assert immunity from prosecution and to avoid being subjected to a trial.” Dennis v. State, 51 So.3d 456, 462 (Fla.2010).

Defenses under the stand your ground provisions are more specific than other self-defense provisions of Florida law.

Pre-trial Evidentiary Hearing under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

When the defendant files a motion to invoke the statutory immunity, then the trial court must hold a pre-trial evidentiary hearing to determine if the preponderance of the evidence warrants immunity. See State v. Yaqubie, 51 So.3d 474, 476 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010).

At the hearing, the trial court must weigh and decide factual disputes as to the defendant's use of force to determine whether to dismiss the case based on the immunity. Peterson v. State, 983 So.2d 27, 29 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). The defendant bears the burden of proof on the issue of whether the "stand your ground" or "castle doctrine" immunity attaches to his or her actions. Id.

During the evidentiary hearing, the trial court considers the disputed issues of fact and must make a finding under the preponderance of the evidence standard. The court can either dismiss the charges or allow the prosecution to go forward.

Attorneys for Self-Defense Claims under "Stand Your Ground"

If you believe that a self-defense claim is a defense to your charge for any crime of violence then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. The lawyers at the Sammis Law Firm are experienced in representing individuals charged with crimes of violence throughout Hillsborough County, and the surrounding areas of Tampa Bay including St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County, Dade City and New Port Richey in Pasco County, and Brooksville in Hernando County.

The Stand Your Own Ground or Castle Doctrine laws in Florida were enacted to protect individuals against prosecutions when they acted in self-defense to protect themselves or their family against intruders or attackers.

Find out more about the criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm can protect you from an unjust prosecution for a crime of violence. Call (813) 250-0500 today.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. 

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