Self-Defense in Florida Criminal Cases

Self-defense in Florida criminal casesPeople sometimes find themselves in a situation where they need to act quickly and defend themselves and their families. When an attack is imminent, would-be victims of crimes should not be incriminated for defending themselves or others. Fortunately, the State of Florida agrees that self-defense in criminal cases is a valid defense.

Self-defense may include either deadly or non-deadly force. If you have been arrested for a crime such as battery, aggravated battery, or homicide, but did so in self-defense, start working on your defense immediately. Call Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900 to speak to one of our attorneys about your case.

What exactly is “deadly” and “non-deadly” force?

In the context of cases where the defendant uses self-defense as a defense in a criminal case, non-deadly force simply refers to force that is not likely to cause death or great bodily harm, such as hitting or shoving someone. Deadly force is that which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm, like shooting an attacker or hitting them over the head with a blunt object.

Defendants can use deadly or non-deadly force as an affirmative defense. In 2005, Florida expanded its self-defense principle by establishing a “no duty to retreat rule,” codified in Florida Statutes §§ 776.012 and 776.013, commonly referred to as the Stand Your Ground rule.

The gist of the rule is that if someone feels she, another person, her home, or her property is in danger, she has the right to use force as a form of protection, and that she has no duty to retreat from the perpetrator.

When is using force justifiable?

Chapter 776 of the Florida Statutes details the situation in which using force is justifiable. Below are a few common scenarios:

  • Defending a person: You can use non-deadly force if you believe you must do so in order to protect yourself or another against the assailant’s imminent use of unlawful force. You can only use deadly force if you believe that force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to you or another, or to prevent someone from committing a forcible felony. A forcible felony means crimes such as murder, kidnapping, or sexual battery. [Florida Statute § 776.012]
  • Defending your home: Florida law presumes that you have a reasonable right to fear death or great bodily harm if someone breaks into your home. If someone forcefully and unlawfully enters your home or vehicle, you have a right to use deadly force. [Florida Statute § 776.013]
  • Defending your property: You have the right to use non-deadly force when you believe it is necessary in order to prevent or stop another’s trespass on or wrongful interference with your or your immediate family member’s property. The force may only be deadly if you must use it to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, such as carjacking or discharging a bomb. [Florida Statute § 776.031]

When is the use of force as self-defense not applicable?

There have been cases in which an aggressor (not the original victim) attempts to claim self-defense when charged with a crime. It typically will not hold up in court. Florida Statute § 776.041 prohibits the use of deadly force by an aggressor; you cannot justifiably use force or deadly force when:

  1. You are “attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or”
  2. You initially provoked the use or threatened use of force against yourself.

There are two exceptions, though. If you initiated the incident, but you have exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm, then force may still be justifiable. Also, if you, in good faith, withdrew from physical contact with the other person and clearly indicated that you wanted to peaceably withdraw from the altercation and stop the use of force, but the other party continues or resumes the use or threatened use of force, you can justifiably use force to protect yourself.

I have been arrested for using self-defense. Who can I call for help?

Our team of self-defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel can help you with any type of self-defense-related criminal cases. Maribeth Wetzel has successfully defended numerous clients facing serious criminal charges and knows the ins and outs of various types of cases. And Summer Goldman is a former prosecutor who knows how to view criminal cases from both angles. She knows which defenses work, what types of evidence are most effective, and how to find defects in the prosecutor’s case.

Call us today for help with your case. The sooner we are put on the case, the better able we will be to prepare your defense. We have three offices located in Bradenton, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. Contact our office anytime at 727-828-3900.