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The Law on Self Defense in Florida

The Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office recently decided to take another look at an incident where a Jacksonville Beach suspect (Theodore Gersdorf) cut off another person’s finger with a machete, according to an article at Jacksonville.com. Apparently, when Jacksonville police originally investigated the incident, the suspect claimed that he used the machete in self defense, and charges of aggravated battery against him were not pursued. However, according to the article, witnesses to the incident said that the suspect said he was going to his car to get “something that would take care of” the alleged victim and then left and returned with the machete. This, according to Jacksonville police, calls into question the suspect’s initial claim of self defense.

In Florida, the law pertaining to self defense allows a person to use deadly force to reasonably protect him/herself or another person from death or serious bodily harm and/or to prevent the occurrence of a forcible felony such as rape, robbery, burglary or kidnapping. In 2005, the law regarding self defense was changed to allow a person to use deadly force in public in one of the situations described above even if they could have fled the scene to avoid the threat. Prior to the change, a person who used deadly force in such a situation in public would have to show that he/she could not have otherwise escaped the threat. People in Florida were already permitted to use deadly force without fleeing in such a situation in their homes, vehicles or businesses.