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What is Self Defense?

Published on April 13, 2016

Orlando criminal defense attorney David Hill explains what constitutes self defense under Florida Law. He also talks about what deadly force, when can someone legally use it and what the Stand your Ground is under Florida Law.

What is Self Defense?

Let's first talk about just regular self-defense under Florida Law. You're allowed to use force, but not deadly force, to defend yourself or to defend another person. That means that if you perceive reasonably that somebody is going to attack you or threaten you physically in some way you're allowed to defend yourself, which is pretty much what common sense would dictate. You're also allowed to use force, again not deadly force, if you think reasonably that somebody else is going to be attacked or if somebody else is under threat. That's a pretty common defense that you would raise in any kind of a battery situation: You think somebody is going to punch you or somebody shoves you and you punch them back or you shove them back or you think that somebody you know or even a stranger it's under attack you can defend that person as long as it's not deadly force.

Deadly force is something that comes under analysis when we're talking about stand your ground defense, which is something that we hear in the press a lot with some of these high-profile shooting cases. What does that mean? Stand your ground means that you are allowed to use deadly force or you're allowed to threaten to use deadly force in certain scenarios. It's got to be a reasonable belief that somebody is threatening you with imminent harm or death or great bodily harm.

You can't raise this defense unless there's a reasonable basis for believing that somebody is going to either harm you or imminent harm it's going to be. This can't be remote. It's got to be happening right now

The other scenario where that comes up is to prevent somebody from committing a forcible felony upon you. There's a list in the Florida statutes of what a forcible felony is but basically if somebody is coming at you and you have a reasonable belief that they are going to commit a forcible felony on you, for example robbery, you are allowed to use deadly.

In the stand-your-ground statute or analysis you do not have to retreat. So there's no requirement under the law that you backup as much as you can before you use deadly force. There's no requirement about that at all. You have the right to, and this is over the term stand-your-ground comes from, you have the right to stand your ground and as long as you are legally in a place where you are legally allowed to be and you're not committing any kind of criminal offense yourself. So you can't be in the process of committing a crime and then somebody pulls deadly force on you and then you respond with deadly force. It only applies if you are in a place that you're legally allowed to be and yourself are not engaged in any kind of criminal activity.

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