Due to the recent, well-publicized George Zimmerman verdict, the Florida Stand Your Ground law has received a lot of attention both in Florida and across the country. Much of that attention and focus has been partially or completely wrong. One thing is for sure- a lot of people do not understand the Florida Stand Your Ground law. We have posted several articles about it since the law came into effect a few years ago. They can be searched on this criminal defense attorney blog.
Due to the circumstances of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, the Florida Stand Your Ground law has only been discussed in the context of a murder or manslaughter case since deadly force was used in that case. However, the Florida Stand Your Ground law can also be asserted by a defendant in a case where non-deadly force was used.
In a recent case involving the crime of battery, which is a misdemeanor in Florida, there was evidence that the alleged victim started the fight by hitting the defendant first. After the alleged victim punched the defendant, the defendant beat up the alleged victim. Based on these facts, the defendant filed a Stand Your Ground motion asking the judge to dismiss the case. The judge denied the motion because the judge said the Stand Your Ground law in Florida only applies to deadly force cases. Even some judges do not understand the Stand Your Ground law.
The judge was clearly wrong. The Florida Stand Your Ground law provides immunity from prosecution where a defendant was justified in using force against the alleged victim. In other words, if the defendant was defending himself from an attack or an imminent attack and using reasonable force in response, that is a valid self defense claim. That defendant can file a Stand Your Ground motion to have the case dismissed by the judge even in cases where non-deadly force is used.
There are limitations to the Stand Your Ground law but whether the force used by the defendant is deadly or non-deadly is not one of them. If the defendant was the aggressor or the defendant did not have a right to be where he/she was or the defendant was engaged in some sort of illegal conduct, the defendant may not be permitted to use the Stand Your Ground immunity. Otherwise, the Florida Stand Your Ground statute could potentially apply in just about any case involving any crime of violence, from misdemeanor battery to murder.