Battery and the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida

The Florida Stand Your Ground law is getting a lot of national attention recently as a result of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. The Florida Stand Your Ground law and justifiable use of force laws provide as follows: 1) a person can use nondeadly force when he/she reasonably believes it is necessary to defend him/herself against another’s imminent use of unlawful force, and 2) A person can use deadly force is he/she reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to him/herself or another person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. In these cases, the person does not have to retreat before using deadly force.

In other words, if a person reasonably thinks he/she is about to be the victim of nondeadly violence, he can use nondeadly violence against the other person. If a person reasonably thinks he/she is about to get killed or seriously injured by another, he/she can use deadly force against that other person to prevent it.

A person has greater protection if the incident occurs in his/her own home. Florida law provides that a person in his/her home is presumed to be in reasonable fear and in a position to legally defend him/herself if the other person is unlawfully entering his/her home.

The following is an example from a battery case near Jacksonville, Florida. In this case, the alleged victim and the defendant knew each other. The alleged victim came over to the defendant’s house and just walked in without an invitation. The defendant told the alleged victim to leave his house. The alleged victim did not leave but hit the defendant in the face instead and then blocked the defendant from leaving. At this point, the defendant threw the victim against the wall, injuring her. The police arrested the defendant for battery and the state filed those charges against the defendant.

This appears to be a pretty clear case of justifiable use of force. Since the alleged victim hit the defendant first and blocked him from leaving, the defendant had a right to defend himself against her initial use of force.

When the stand your ground law applies, it is not merely a defense at a trial. The criminal defense lawyer can file a motion claiming immunity from prosecution from battery or any other violent crime and have a hearing in front of the judge prior to any trial. At that hearing, the defendant can establish that he/she was justified in using force, and the judge can throw out the charges without the need for a trial.

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