Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law and Self-Defense

As criminal defense attorneys that regularly handles Crimes of Violence and Firearms and Weapons Offenses, we are frequently asked to explain and/or provide guidance on Florida's relatively-new "Stand Your Ground" law.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law hit the books in 2005. It immediately drew national attention and created lots of headlines and controversy. On one hand, some people feared that Florida's new law would "turn back the clock" to the days of the Wild West. On the other hand, gun advocate groups and other supporters viewed the law as an expansion of one's right to use deadly force, anywhere, anytime, when they feel threatened or believe that violence is imminent.

Florida Law Prior to the Enactment of the "Stand Your Ground" Law

Prior to Stand Your Ground, a person could use only non-deadly force to defend against the imminent use of unlawful non-deadly force. Deadly force was authorized only to defend against imminent deadly force or great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony.

Unless the person was in his home or workplace, he had a "duty to retreat" prior to using deadly force. In one's home, the "Castle Doctrine" provided that the person had no duty to retreat prior to using deadly force against an intruder. However, he still needed the reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to defend against deadly force, great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony.

Florida Law After the Enactment of the "Stand Your Ground" Law

The "Stand Your Ground" Law introduced two (2) conclusive presumptions that favor a criminal defendant who is making a self-defense claim:

  1. The presumption that the defendant had a reasonable fear that deadly force was necessary; and
  2. The presumption that the intruder intended to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

These two presumptions protect the defender from both civil and criminal prosecution for unlawful use of deadly or non-deadly force in self-defense. In addition, the defender/gun owner has no duty to retreat, regardless of where he is attacked, so long as he is in a place where he is lawfully entitled to be when the danger occurs.

In passing the "Stand Your Ground" Law, the Florida Legislature expressed its intent that no person should be "required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack." The "Stand Your Ground" Law effectively expands the "Castle Doctrine" by expanding what is meant by the concept of one's "castle" to include any place where a person is lawfully entitled to be.

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law now provides immunity from prosecution, as opposed to an affirmative defense that you would need to assert in Trial (after being arrested and charged by the State of Florida).

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" 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.

F.S. §776.013(3)

If you or a loved one is being investigated for, or has been charged with, a Crimes of Violence and/or a Firearms and Weapons Offense, Blake & Dorsten, P.A. is on your side. Please contact attorney Rex Blake or Nicholas Dorsten for a free consultation and/or to discuss your case in complete confidence