The Stand Your Ground law in Florida is a much publicized area of Florida criminal law that addresses when a defendant can gain immunity for using force and causing death or serious injury in self defense. It is not available to every defendant who is charged with a serious violent crime, but it can be a very helpful tool when a defendant is eligible to assert the Stand Your Ground law in Florida.
A recent murder case south of Jacksonville, Florida illustrates a situation where a defendant was not allowed to assert the Stand Your Ground law. As an initial matter, a defendant charged with a violent crime can only use the Stand Your Ground law in Florida if he/she was facing an imminent threat of death or serious injury which prompted him/her to use force. “Imminent” under Florida law is understood to mean something that is about to happen, not something that is expected to, or might, happen some time in the future. In this case, the defendant and his co-worker had a conflict at work. The victim told the defendant that after work, when he sees the defendant, he is going to stab him. Thereafter, the defendant armed himself with a knife and confronted the victim. The two got into a fight, and the defendant stabbed the victim, killing him.
The criminal defense lawyer for the defendant argued that the defendant stabbed the victim in self defense as he was legitimately scared that the victim would stab him, as he said he would earlier in the day.
The court rejected the Stand Your Ground motion. The court found that the threat from the victim was not “imminent” because it was supposed to take place at a later time. Additionally, the court found that the defendant’s use of force against the victim was not reasonable. In order to assert the Stand Your Ground immunity, the defendant must show that the force he used was reasonable in light of the threat he faced. In this case, when the defendant sought out the victim, there was no indication that the victim had a knife. The two fought for a short period of time, and then the defendant stabbed the victim. Stabbing someone is not usually going to be a reasonable use of force when two people are fighting and there is no evidence the other person is armed.
Therefore, because the threat from the victim was not imminent, the defendant initiated the violence and the defendant used excessive force, his Stand Your Ground motion was properly denied.