The Florida legislature significantly changed the self-defense laws in the State of Florida approximately 5 years ago. State attorneys' offices and law enforcement officers throughout the state complained that the new self-defense rule would cause lawlessness in the streets. While that prediction has not come to fruition, prosecutors have had difficult time filing charges and successfully prosecuting violent crimes because the law that allows individuals to stand their ground. While the defense is not applicable in many cases, Miami criminal defense lawyers have used the defense to win cases or in the alternative, get significantly reduced plea offers for their clients.
Prior to enacting the new law, a person did not have a duty to retreat were in cases where the person using deadly force was in their home, residence or automobile. The jury instruction regarding this defense can be summarized as allowing a defendant to use deadly force when he or she is in his or her dwelling, residence or vehicle, the defendant was in fear of imminent peril of death or bodily injury and the alleged victim unlawfully and forcibly entered or attempted to forcibly remove another person from the defendant's dwelling residence or automobile. The law went further to presume that anyone another person's property was doing so with the intent to commit and act involving force or violence.
The old law required a person to retreat if the person was able to leave without facing imminent harm. The new legislation allows for a person to remain in any place where they are legally allowed to be and that person has no duty to retreat and can stand his or her ground and use force, even deadly force, if reasonable necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. The law also allows for a person to defend another person with no duty to retreat under the same circumstances.
The revisions to the stand your ground law allow for an effective defense in manslaughter and aggravated battery charges. The defense has been successfully used to defend cases throughout the State of Florida, but in particular in Miami-Dade and Pinellas Counties. To make the stand your ground defense stronger it is always helpful to have defense witnesses that will corroborate the version events set forth by the defendant. If a person is charged with a violent crime, they should speak an criminal defense law firm that specializes in these types offenses to determine if there is viable self-defense claim exists. In any event, the new legislation causes major problems for law enforcement to deal mutual combatant type cases.
Stand Your Ground" Makes It Tougher to Prosecute Assailants, St. Petersburg Times, September 30, 2010.