Can I Claim Self Defense?

By Lowry Law Firm | Posted on May 22, 2015

Self defense laws vary greatly from state to state. All states recognize that in some situations, people who use force to defend themselves should not be held criminally responsible for their actions. There is, however, quite a bit of disagreement about what those situations are. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Florida for defending yourself against an attacker, you’ll probably be relieved to know that Florida’s laws on self defense are more favorable to defendants than many other states’ laws.

Florida Statute 776.012 lays out the circumstances in which a claim of self defense will be recognized. It states:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

Some self defense laws state that people have a “duty to retreat” before using force in self defense. (If there is a duty to retreat, that means that someone who uses force cannot claim self defense if they did not first take reasonable steps to try to retreat from the situation.) However, 776.012 specifically states that there is no duty to retreat in this scenario.

The statute also recognizes occasions in which it is acceptable to use deadly force:

“A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

It also states that in such a scenario, there is no duty to retreat if the person who is using or threatening to use deadly force is a) not engaged in a criminal activity and b) in a place where he or she has a right to be.

Home Protection

Florida Statute 776.013 also deals with the justifiable use of force. It lists two scenarios in which someone who uses or threatens to use deadly force will be presumed to have held “a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily force to himself or herself.”

The first scenario is when the deadly force was used or threatened against someone who was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering a home, or against someone who had already entered a home this way. (It also applies if the person was entering a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.)

The second scenario is when the person who used or threatened deadly force knew – or had reason to believe – that an unlawful and forcible entry or act was occurring, or had occurred.

An Attorney Can Help

If you used force to defend yourself from an attack, and you are being charged with a crime, a skilled attorney can help convince a judge or jury that your actions were justified. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry has a great deal of experience in self defense cases. You can contact him today, by phone or by email.