Archive for September 2009

Florida “Stand Your Ground” Law

September 13, 2009

There have been several incidents reported in the news recently regarding people inside of their homes defending themselves against an intruder. In Palm Beach County, a homeowner shot and wounded a man who broke into his home. Also in Palm Beach County, a man who had broken into a home was beaten with a baseball bat by the residents of the home. Lastly, in Miami-Dade, a man was killed by the homeowner after the man jumped the fence surrounding the home. The question to be asked is in each case is was the home’s occupants justified in their actions.

In 2005, Florida passed what has become known as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” This law expanded on the Castle Doctrine, which is a long recognized legal principle that a person’s home is their “castle” and the person has no duty to retreat while in their home when faced with an intruder. The “Stand Your Ground Law” states that:

1) It is presumed, that is, taken as a fact, that anyone who forcibly enters, or attempts to forcefully enter, someone else’s home or occupied vehicle is there to cause death or great bodily harm.

2) It removes a person’s “duty to retreat”, that is, the duty to avoid the confrontation before using force, if you are attacked in any place you have a right to be. In other words, you don’t have to avoid the person attacking you and you may “stand your ground” fighting back with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to you or others.

3) A person using such force shall not be prosecuted for a crime or sued in civil court. Fla. Stat. 776.032.

The law has been tested several times in criminal court throughout Florida. What may be learned from these cases is that, as in every criminal case, each case is made of different facts and it is the specific facts of each case that will determine whether a person has a right to stand their ground. In some cases, the defendant was exonerated and found to have acted appropriately thus avoiding criminal penalties. In others, the defendant did not. The law will continue to be tested with the facts of each case scrutinized by police, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges.

Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney