After the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, the Florida Stand Your Ground law received a lot of national attention. Basically, it allows a defendant to file a motion to have the case thrown out by a judge if the facts indicate he/she had a right to use the force that was used during the incident. Despite what the media may have suggested, such an immunity assertion was not made by George Zimmerman although he obviously argued self defense during the trial.
The following is an example of a case where the Stand Your Ground immunity motion was made and was successful. In a murder case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with second degree murder after an altercation outside a restaurant. Defendant’s friend got into an argument with two guys in the restaurant. When Defendant and his friend left the restaurant, Defendant’s friend was attacked and punched by one of the people they had argued with before. The other guy then came and made a threatening move to Defendant. At first Defendant raised his hands to fend them off but when he said he saw one of them reach under his shirt, Defendant pulled out his gun that he had obtained earlier after the argument and shot and killed both of them. Two knives were found near where one of the victims fell. Defendant waited at the scene and was cooperative with the police. He gave a statement and was released. One similarity with the George Zimmerman case then occurred. Weeks later, a new investigator took over and decided to arrest Defendant although no new evidence was uncovered.
The criminal defense attorney filed a Stand Your Ground immunity motion. He argued that after Defendant and his friend were attacked and one of the attackers reached into his pants (where he certainly could have had a knife or gun), Defendant was reasonably in fear of death or serious bodily harm to himself and his friend and had a right to use reasonable force to address the threat. That is what the Stand Your Ground law is about. If a person is in reasonable fear that another is going to cause him or another person serious bodily injury or death, that person can respond with force in a reasonable manner to defend himself and/or the other potential victim. The person does not need to retreat or fire a warning shot. Of course, the ultimate question is whether it was reasonable, under the circumstances, to use force and then to use the amount of force that was used by the defendant.
If the judge agrees that the use of force, and the amount of force used, was reasonable, then the judge should grant the Stand Your Ground motion. If the judge does, then the defendant is immune, and the state cannot further prosecute the defendant.