The Florida Stand Your Ground Law has received national attention over the last several months because of the George Zimmerman case. The Florida Stand Your Ground Law was enacted in 2005 and provides immunity for defendants who qualify under the law. This immunity is not a defense at trial, but rather it is a way to avoid prosecution for a crime. The criminal defense lawyer representing a defendant who is asserting the Stand Your Ground Law immunity can file a motion with the judge and if successful, the case against him/her is dropped. The case never gets to a jury. At that hearing, the standard of proof is less than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard people are familiar with in criminal cases that go to a jury.
The Florida Stand Your Ground Law gives immunity from prosecution to a defendant who used force in a legally justifiable manner. Generally, a person is allowed to use force if he/she reasonably believes it is necessary to defend himself or another against the alleged victim’s unlawful and imminent use of force.
One factor that would disqualify a person from attempting the Stand Your Ground Law immunity is if the defendant was doing something unlawful to begin with. For example, if the defendant was burglarizing someone’s home and the homeowner came out and threatened his life, the defendant could not assert the Stand Your Ground immunity if the defendant used force against the homeowner.
Another area that will be scrutinized by the judge when deciding a Stand Your Ground Law immunity attempt is whether the defendant instigated the violence. In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant got drunk and he and a friend went to find the victim to confront him about a debt. When the defendant found the victim, he started yelling at the victim in a threatening manner. A fight ensued during which the victim was injured by the defendant with a knife. The defendant was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery. The defendant’s Stand Your Ground Law immunity attempt failed because the judge found that the defendant instigated the events and the defendant was not in reasonable fear of imminent harm from the victim when he used force against the victim.