Many states follow something known as the castle doctrine, which allows residents to legally use force, up to deadly force, to protect their homes or personal property if they are attacked in their place of residence. Florida and a number of other states have expanded the castle doctrine to hold that there is no requirement that a person retreat from an attacker anywhere they are legally present.
Types of force
Florida’s self-defense law addresses non-deadly force and deadly force. Non-deadly force is actions like hitting or shoving.
Deadly force usually causes significant physical harm or risk of death. Individuals may use or threaten to use deadly force to prevent assault, burglary, kidnapping or other forcible felony.
Florida allows an individual to stand their ground and use force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or harm to anyone or themselves. Anyone who legally uses or threatens to use force under Florida’s self-defense laws is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action against the person at whom the force was directed.
A person is not immune from prosecution for using deadly force while they are engaging in an illegal activity, against a police officer acting within their official duties or if they are in a place they are not legally allowed to be.
A defendant may claim self-defense at a pretrial hearing or during the trial. If the judge finds that the circumstances justified self-defense, all criminal charges may be dismissed. But self-defense may also be introduced at the trial and considered by a jury if a judge finds that self-defense was not justified.
Courts will instruct juries to examine the circumstances and what a reasonable person would have done. When a defendant presents evidence of self-defense in a criminal case, the prosecution must overcome that claim beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants can meet a low standard of evidence to prove that they acted in self-defense.
Individuals in Florida have constitutional and legal rights. Seeking legal representation can help individuals protect their rights.