A decade ago (in 2005) Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law was enacted. As Orlando criminal defense attorneys who frequently handle crimes involving firearms and weapons offenses, and other violent crimes we are often asked about this law, and what it means.
Upon enactment of the 'Stand Your Ground' law in the state, the headlines were everywhere; the controversy drew attention around the country. While gun advocate groups and others who support gun ownership had the notion that this new law expanded an individual’s right to use deadly force at any time or in any situation where that individual felt threatened or feared imminent violence, others could picture in their minds the state reverting back to the old days, something akin to the Wild Wild West.Here is the true picture of Florida law before and after the 'Stand Your Ground' law was enacted
Before the 'Stand Your Ground' law was enacted, an individual could only use deadly force to defend him- or herself against the commission of a forcible felony, or imminent (immediate) deadly force or great bodily harm. If a person was in immediate danger due to the use by another individual of unlawful non-deadly force, that person could only use non-deadly force in defending him- or herself.
If an individual was in any location other than the home or workplace, that individual had a "duty to retreat" prior to the use of deadly force. However, if an individual was in his or her home, he had no duty to retreat before using deadly force provided that he/she had a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to defend him/herself against another person committing a forcible felony, or defend against deadly force/great bodily harm. This right to use deadly force while in one's home is known as the "Castle Doctrine."What changed when the 'Stand Your Ground' law was enacted?
Essentially, two conclusive presumptions were introduced; these presumptions protect those who defend themselves from criminal and civil prosecution of either non-deadly or deadly force in self defense. The presumptions include:
After the passing of the 'Stand Your Ground' law, the "Castle Doctrine" was expanded to include not only one's home, but any location where an individual is entitled to be under the law. Ultimately, now someone can lawfully defend himself using deadly force without the duty to retreat, regardless of where that person is when faced with imminent fear of intrusion or attack. This applies so long as the individual is in a place where he/she is lawfully entitled to be when intrusion or attack occurs.
It is important to note that in no state may someone shoot another person who is simply moving toward that individual in a way that is loud or aggressive, or shouting at that person. You must have a reason to believe that serious bodily injury, death, kidnapping, or rape is imminent. In states which do not have a 'Stand Your Ground' law, deadly force can only be used outside of the home when no safe avenue of retreat exists. In Stand Your Ground states such as Florida, deadly force may be used even if a safe avenue of retreat is available, when imminent threat of death, injury, or the other harms listed above is present.