Stand Your Ground
Florida's Stand Your Ground law was passed in 2005. It provided a defense or justification for the use of deadly force and failure to retreat in certain circumstances. It also allowed judges the authority to dismiss charges when they believe that the defendant was acting in reasonable self-defense. The law received media attention in connection with the George Zimmerman case, in which a neighborhood watchman shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. The Stand Your Ground defense may apply to charges of aggravated battery or other violent crimes. At Hanlon Law, St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney Will Hanlon understands that it is overwhelming to be charged with a crime, and he believes strongly in providing a vigorous defense to the accused.The Stand Your Ground Defense
The Stand Your Ground law is codified in Florida Statutes section 776.012, which provides that you are justified in using deadly force and need not retreat if you reasonably believe that force is necessary to stop imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or to stop the imminent commission of a forcible felony, or if you act as provided in section 776.013 when confronted with a vehicle or home invasion. The force that you use needs to be proportionate. Section 776.013 allows you to stand your ground and not retreat, and you can use non-deadly force against someone when you reasonably think that it is needed to avoid being seriously injured or killed, to protect someone else from serious injury or being killed, or to stop a forcible felony from imminent commission.
For example, if you are driving home from the supermarket and are waiting at a light, and someone wearing a black ski mask jumps out, points a gun at you, and tries to carjack you, you would probably be justified in using force against the gunman. If you were afraid of being killed by the gunman, your attorney could probably raise the Stand Your Ground defense. The question would be whether you reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary in that situation.
Generally, there is a presumption that you had a reasonable fear of death or serious injury when using defensive force that was likely to kill or seriously injure somebody else, if that other person was illegally or forcefully trying to gain entry into your house or occupied car. The same presumption applies when the victim is trying to pull somebody out of the home or an occupied car. However, this presumption is inapplicable if the other person had the right to be at the home or in the car, and there was not a no contact order or injunction to stop that person from being there.
The presumption is also inapplicable when the other person is the lawful guardian of children or grandchildren in their legal custody. You also cannot raise a Stand Your Ground defense in connection with battery against a police officer who was trying to perform their official duties in a situation in which you knew or reasonably should have known that they were a police officer.
A relatively recent change to the Stand Your Ground law is that the burden of proof has been shifted to prosecutors, rather than defendants, to show that the force used was unlawful. However, one trial court has reasoned that this change to the Stand Your Ground defense is unconstitutional. The judge said that courts, rather than the legislature, should determine the process by which you can claim that you were protecting yourself with an act of violence. This ruling is not binding on other trial courts.Hire a St. Petersburg Attorney to Build a Strong Defense
The Stand Your Ground defense may be applied in different ways, depending on the circumstances under which you used force. An experienced criminal defense attorney will keep up with developments in this area so that they can use the defense whenever applicable. If you are seeking a tough and skillful lawyer to mount a Stand Your Ground defense in St. Petersburg, Hanlon Law may be able to represent you. You can call Hanlon Law at 727.289.0222 or submit our online form.