With the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case getting so much attention along with the Florida Stand Your Ground law, we thought we would provide some examples of how the law works in practice. This is the second example we have discussed of a case where the Florida Stand Your Ground law was applied to give a defendant immunity from prosecution for a violent crime. The Florida Stand Your Ground law, when it applies, is a defense to a violent crime charge and gives the defendant immunity from prosecution. This means that the criminal defense lawyer can raise this issue in a motion with the judge and if successful, have the judge throw the case out so it never gets to a jury trial.
In this recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with aggravated battery, but the criminal defense lawyer was able to have the judge throw the case out based on immunity from the Florida Stand Your Ground law. In this case, the defendant and the alleged victim were arguing and ultimately got into a fight with each other. At some point during the fight, the defendant stopped fighting and retreated. At the defendant retreated, the alleged victim attempted to forcibly take a briefcase belonging to the defendant’s friend. The two began fighting over the briefcase again, and the defendant stabbed the alleged victim with a knife.
Under the Florida Stand Your Ground law, a person has a right to use deadly force if he/she reasonably believes the other person is about to cause death or bodily injury to him/her or to prevent the other person from committing a forcible felony. It did not appear that the alleged victim was about to use deadly force against the defendant, but the alleged victim was in the process of committing a forcible felony- a robbery. As a result, the defendant was authorized to use deadly force against the alleged victim to prevent the alleged victim from committing the robbery, which is considered a forcible felony in Florida.
It should be noted that a defendant is not entitled to the benefit of the Florida Stand Your Ground law if the defendant is engaged in, or is furthering, unlawful activity. For instance, if the defendant initiated the fight or the defendant was attempting to commit a robbery, the Stand Your Ground law would not apply. However, in this case, the defendant had retreated from the initial fight, and it was the alleged victim who restarted the altercation by attempting to commit the robbery. As a result, the defendant could assert the Stand Your Ground law and was entitled to use deadly force. The aggravated battery charge was properly thrown out under the Florida Stand Your Ground law.