The Stand-Your-Ground Laws in Florida

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, the Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee conducted a five hour hearing on House Bill 4003, which is legislation to repeal Florida's self-defense immunity statute (commonly known as the Stand-Your-Ground law).  The measure was soundly defeated by a vote of 11 to 2.

The hearing occurred after the 30 plus day protect against the Stand Your Law ground by the Dream Defenders. The Dream Defenders are a group of activist who camped out at the Florida State Capital promising not to leave until Governor Rick Scott held a special session to talk about repealing Florida's Stand-Your-Ground statute.

Florida's self-defense immunity statute passed unanimously in the Florida Senate in 2005 with overwhelming and bipartisan support in the Florida House. In fact, the legislation passed 94 to 20.

What Protections are Contained in Florida's Stand Your Ground Laws?

Among other protections, Florida's self-defense immunity statute allows the defense to file a pretrial motion to dismiss the charges. The statute also provides for special jury instructions if immunity from prosecution is not granted on a pre-trial basis.

Filing the pre-trial motion triggers a evidentiary hearing during which the trial court must either grant or deny the pretrial motion to dismiss after hearing testimony and reviewing evidence in the case.

If the court denies the motion, the defense can appeal the decision to deny a “Stand Your Ground” motion before trial and the refusal to invoke self-defense immunity by filing a petition for writ of prohibition.

During the hearing on the "Stand Your Ground" motion at the trial level, the state will argue that the defense bears the burden of proving his entitlement to self-defense immunity by the preponderance of evidence. The defense will often argue that the statute requires the State to bears the burden.

At the motion the defense will argue that the defendant was justified in his actions. A person is justified in using deadly force when he or she reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to him or herself or another, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. § 776.012, Fla. Stat. (2011) such as false imprisonment.

False imprisonment, for example, is defined as “forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against her or his will.” § 787.02(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2011).

If the trial court finds that the other side's actions rise to the level of a forcible felony such as false imprisonment, aggravated assault, or another type of forcible felony, then the Defendant might be justified in his use of force on this basis. The trial court will consider whether there was an imminent threat and whether the Defendant's subjective fear was objectively unreasonable.

Read more about Florida's self-defense immunity statute known as Florida's Stand Your Ground statute in this article written by criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL. 

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