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Self Defense is Not a Valid Defense in Florida Where Defendant is Committing Forcible Felony

Most people have heard of the defense of self defense in Florida where a defendant is charged with a violent crime. Basically, a person can use reasonable force to defend him/herself from the imminent force of another person. However, a defendant does not always have the right to a self defense claim. If the defendant was committing, attempting to commit or escaping from a forcible felony, the defendant does not have the right to claim self defense if he/she commits a violent crime against another person. Additionally, if the defendant provokes the force, he/she normally cannot claim self defense if he/she responds with violence.

In a case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant and the victim had very different stories about how the victim got injured. The victim said he was attacked by the defendant with a knife. The defendant said the victim attacked him first with a baseball bat and the defendant defended himself with the knife. The state charged the defendant with aggravated battery and attempted murder. The state argued that the defendant could not use the self defense argument because he was committing the forcible felony of aggravated battery when he was allegedly defending himself and committing the attempted murder. However, this is circular and flawed logic. The acts that supported the alleged aggravated battery and attempted murder were the same. In order to eliminate a self defense claim, the state has to show that the defendant was committing an independent forcible felony while allegedly defending himself. If the defendant was committing an independent forcible felony, then he/she cannot claim self defense if he commits a separate violent crime. In this case, the aggravated battery and attempted murder were basically the same conduct.

A legitimate example of the forcible felony exception to a self defense claim would be where the defendant is committing an armed robbery and the victim resists with violence. If the defendant was in reasonable fear for his life and committed an aggravated battery by shooting the victim, the defendant could not claim self defense because the violence occurred during a separate forcible felony he committed.