Florida’s stand your ground law gained national notoriety in the George Zimmerman murder trial, where he was accused in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Several prominent cases would follow testing this new legal principle that expanded the common law self-defense doctrine. Recent changes to the law have made it more favorable to the accused.
The Florida stand your ground law immunes from prosecution individuals who strike, injure or kill another person they reasonably believed posed an imminent danger to themselves or another. In simple terms, the law is supposed to prevent the prosecution of a person who acted in self-defense. The law also removes the duty to retreat. So any person who reasonably believes they are in imminent danger of death or bodily harm can meet force with force. If that person is the victim of a forcible felony, they can shoot first under the stand your ground law. In essence, the person threatened can attack first with a duty to retreat or deescalate the situation.
The law also lists circumstances where there is a presumption of imminent danger. Those include when a person is forcibly entering another person’s home or occupied vehicle, and when a person knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred. While the stand your ground law at its core is the common law self-defense doctrine that has existed for 1000s of years, it expands the rights of a person accused by permitting them to attack without retreating and immunes that person from prosecution.
Stand your ground applies in situations where a person acting in self-defense or defense of another person, and under the threat of imminent danger of seriously bodily injury, death or a forcible felony, meets force with force, including deadly force, if that person reasonably believes it was necessary to do so. If a person or someone else is the victim of a forcible felony, the stand your ground law applies. For example, if another person were to attempt to rob, stab, shoot or kill an individual or threatened to do so, that individual can use force, including deadly force, against the person who poses the threat. The threat must be imminent. The threat has to be in the here and now. It can’t be a future threat.
In practice, individuals are commonly arrested and prosecuted for cases that involve clear stand your ground immunity. Police officers and prosecutors routinely have a different view on whether the stand your ground law applies in certain circumstances. Innocent people are arrested and charged with serious offenses. They can face lengthy prison terms and minimum mandatory sentences. That is why hiring an experienced and effective lawyer like Brian Kirlew, Esq. is so important.
Despite popular opinion, Florida’s stand your ground law is not a license to kill. The stand your ground law doesn’t protect someone who was the initial aggressor. It doesn’t protect someone who was committing a crime at the time. The law doesn’t apply in any circumstance when the person seeking immunity from prosecution was fleeing from the commission of a forcible felony. It doesn’t protect individuals who had sufficient time to cool off and reinitiated the confrontation.
In reality, there is no immunity from prosecution. There is immunity from having to assert the defense of self-defense in trial. If done properly, a person accused of a crime that seeks protection under the stand your ground law can have their case dismissed before ever having to stand trial on the charges. That person is still arrested and formally charged by the state attorney. The person seeking immunity still has to go through the process of hiring a lawyer and having their case properly investigated and prepared. The Stand Your Ground law gives the judge the power to dismiss a criminal case without the case ever having to be heard by a jury. The law provides an avenue for the accused to seek immunity in a pre-trial hearing, rather than raising the defense at trial.
Whenever charged with a serious offense, it is important to hire experienced and effective counsel. This is particularly true in stand your ground cases. Local police departments and prosecutors are uniformly opposed to the protections afforded under the law. It is an uphill battle for an accused to get their case dismissed based upon stand your ground immunity. If you or someone close to you is charged with a law violation where you think the stand your ground law may help, contact our offices immediately and schedule a free consultation. We will answer your questions and advise you how to proceed.
Contact Brian Kirlew, Esq at 305-521-0484 today.