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Pleading Self-Defense in Florida

A person accused of a violent crime such as homicide, manslaughter, aggravated battery or other violent offense may have the option of arguing that he or she was acting self-defense or in defense of another person. Florida law allows people to use force to defend themselves or others, including deadly force in some situations. However, making this defense successfully requires the attention of highly skilled and experienced lawyers.

Based in Orlando, Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law is a firm offering powerful criminal defense services to clients throughout Florida. We have extensive experience representing those accused of violent crimes, and we have successfully employed self-defense arguments in a number of situations. If you believe you may need to assert self-defense, make sure you speak with one of our lawyers first. It is important to proceed carefully and strategically in these cases.

Justifiable Use of Deadly Force in Florida

A person is allowed to use deadly force to defend himself or others if certain conditions are met. Deadly force means force that is likely to cause death or bodily harm (defending oneself with a firearm or other weapon, for example).

Deadly force can be used if a person reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent:

  • Imminent death or great bodily harm to oneself or another person
  • Imminent commission of a “forcible felony” against oneself or another (armed robbery is an example of a forcible felony)
  • The commission of a felony in or upon a dwelling, residence or vehicle occupied by him or her

Deadly force cannot be used by a person who was committing a felony or attempting to escape after committing a felony. Deadly force is also not allowed by someone who is resisting arrest.

Justifiable Use of Non-Deadly Force

A person has the right to defend him or herself (or another) through non-deadly force if:

  • He or she reasonably believes such force is necessary to defend him or herself against the imminent use of unlawful force.
  • Someone is trespassing or otherwise interfering with land or personal property owned by him or her, or by his or her family.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

In 2005, Florida passed a law that has become known as the “Stand Your Ground” law. It received a great deal of nationwide scrutiny during the Trayvon Martin murder trial in 2013. Essentially, the law says that the victim of an attack has no duty to retreat and has the right to “meet force with force,” so long as the defender has a lawful right to be in the place where the attack happens. The attack victim can use deadly force, such as a firearm, if he or she believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

If a stand your ground defense is employed, there will be a hearing early on where the judge will decide if the defense applies and is eligible to be used.

Remember all self-defense cases are stronger if there is video evidence or witness statements supporting the argument. Additionally, issues such as reputation and physical capabilities of the victim and defendant will be considered at trial.