In 2005, the Florida Legislature enacted what is popularly known as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” The law has been in the spotlight since its adoption because it’s controversial. The legislation provides guidelines for when and how you can defend yourself against physical threats.
Understanding how the law applies in domestic violence cases is crucial, especially when you’re facing charges for the offense. Talking to an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney can help you know all about the law and how to use it as a defense in a domestic violence charge.
What is Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law?
Florida Statutes of 2019 Chapter 776 covers justified homicide by stipulating that “a person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force in self-defense or to prevent imminent death or significant bodily harm to themselves or others. The person must reasonably believe that using or threatening to use force will help prevent death or injury.
In Florida, it’s justifiable to use or threaten to use deadly force when in danger of being killed or harmed by another person. Unlike the requirements in other states, the law doesn’t require you to try and run away first. Your Tampa domestic violence attorney can use this law to create a strong defense against your domestic violence charges.
Florida Before the Enactment of the Stand Your Ground Law
Before the Stand Your Ground rule was enacted, a person could only use non-deadly force in self-defense. Deadly force could only be authorized in defense against imminent deadly force, significant bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony.
Unless the intrusion happened at the defendant’s home or workplace, they had a duty to retreat before resorting to using deadly force. In one’s home, the Castle Doctrine took precedence, providing that a person had no duty to retreat before using deadly force against an intruder.
What is the Difference Between Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine?
In some cases, Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine are used interchangeably. However, a distinct concept that makes the two terms different is the circumstances under which a person may use deadly force. In its correct context, the Stand Your Ground rule allows a person to use deadly force to prevent death or great bodily harm.
Deadly force may be used in defending oneself or another person at the risk of being killed or significantly harmed. Under this law, a person has no duty to retreat. Instead, their version of self-defense applies wherever they are located.
On the contrary, the Castle Doctrine requires an individual to retreat in the face of danger. They’re only entitled to use deadly force in defense against imminent danger if they’re attacked or their privacy is intruded upon in a dwelling. Consult your lawyer if you need clarification on which law applies to your case.
When Does Stand Your Ground Defense Apply in Florida?
The Stand Your Ground legislation isn’t applicable in every case, meaning it’s not a general application defense. If you want to invoke it in court as a defense against domestic violence charges, your criminal defense attorney in Tampa must help you demonstrate the following elements:
- You were located in a residence, dwelling, or occupied vehicle at the time of the incident. In other words, you must have lawful access to the home, residence, or any other structure attached to the house or building.
- You have a reasonable belief of impending death or bodily harm and therefore need to act quickly to prevent the intruder from causing deadly injury to you or another person.
Despite the requirement of these elements in the provision, the duty to stand your ground is reinforced with various presumptions in Florida’s Statutes. For example, section 776.013(4) presumes that an intruder enters a dwelling or residence to commit an offense. As such, the homeowner or gun owner must act quickly to prevent harm.
How Does the Stand Your Ground Law Work in Criminal Defense?
The Stand Your Ground Rule introduced two crucial and conclusive presumptions in favor of a defendant who wants to use it in a self-defense claim:
- The defendant has a reasonable fear that using deadly force was necessary
- The intruder intended to commit harm using force or violence
These two presumptions cushion the defendant from civil and criminal prosecution for unlawful use of deadly force in defending themselves or others against an intruder. Additionally, it absolves the defendant of the duty to retreat regardless of whether the intruder attacked. However, the defendant must be lawfully entitled to the place where the was danger.
In introducing and passing the Stand Your Ground law, the Florida Legislature aimed to express that no person should have to retreat in the face of intrusion or attack needlessly. The legislation effectively supports the Castle Doctrine by expanding the concept of one’s “castle” to incorporate places where a person is lawfully entitled to be.
What Are the Exceptions to the Stand Your Ground Law?
The rule isn’t applicable in all circumstances. Specifically, your domestic violence attorney in Tampa can’t advise you to use the law:
- If you were committing a crime at the time you attempted to defend themselves
- If you used deadly force against a law enforcement officer performing their official duty
- In justifying the use of deadly force if you intentionally provoked the other party
- If the other party tried to withdraw from the confrontation
A Professional Legal Representative Helping You Build a Strong Defense Strategy
A solid defense strategy is crucial if you’re facing domestic violence charges. An experienced and knowledgeable domestic violence attorney in Tampa gives you the best chance of having the charges reduced or dismissed. They can effectively use the Stand your Ground rule to show why your case should be dropped.
Our law firm hosts skilled and aggressive criminal defense lawyers who can represent you in your case. They have been practicing criminal defense and so understand how the system works. As such, they can put their skills and knowledge to work to help you fight the charges. Contact us to schedule a FREE in-depth case assessment.