In Florida, a defendant charged with a crime of violence may be allowed to use the law commonly referred to as the Stand Your Ground Law to avoid prosecution for an alleged crime. The immunity aspect of this law is critical as it works differently than a normal defense. Essentially, if the criminal defense lawyer believes the Stand Your Ground Law applies, he/she can file a motion to have the case dismissed. A hearing is held, and the state has to present evidence establishing the defendant’s use of force was not reasonable under the law. The defense can present evidence showing the defendant’s use of force was reasonable. At the end of the hearing, if the judge sides with the defendant, the charge is dismissed. If the judge sides with the state, the case moves forward, but the defendant can still use a self-defense strategy at trial, and the question of guilt will be decided by the jury.
A person can successfully use the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida if he/she uses force that is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily harm or prevent a forcible felony. In plain terms, if someone is about to cause you serious harm, you can strike that person first. But, there are limits. The harm by the other person has to be imminent (not some future threat), and it has to be a threat of serious harm. Additionally, the defendant cannot be the one who instigates the violence.
Going back to the reasonable requirement, a mild threat of violence is not sufficient to invoke the Stand Your Ground Law. For instance, if someone is threatening you with a gun, knife, baseball bat or other weapon that can clearly cause death or serious injury, you would likely be justified in using deadly force against that person to prevent being victimized first. However, if the person is approaching you with something that is not a deadly weapon, such as his hands or a stick, that would not likely be a legitimate reason to use deadly force. In the latter situation, if you use deadly force against the person, there is a good chance a Stand Your Ground motion would fail, and you would be facing serious felony charges.
And then there are a lot of examples in between. There is no black and white rule that dictates when you can use deadly force under the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida. It will always depend on the circumstances, and if the defendant pursues that strategy, the decision rests with the presiding judge.