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“Warning Shots” Included into the Scope of Florida Stand Your Ground Legislation

Governor Rick Scott signed into law in late June of this year an addition to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation that provides immunity and protection to Floridian defendants who fire a warning shot or threaten to use a gun in self-defense. The amendment to the current Stand Your Ground legislation was written in response to a recent case of Marissa Alexander who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot while in the middle of a domestic dispute with her husband. Alexander claimed that she was not only a victim of abuse by her husband but fired the warning shot in self-defense when her husband was charging at her. Her claim for self-defense was denied and she was charged with aggravated assault. The jury in this trial determined after only 12 minutes of discussion that self-defense was unavailable to her due in large part to incorrect instructions stating that self-defense was only applicable in cases where the victim suffered some type of injury; the husband in this case did not. The decision was later overturned by an appellate court and Alexander was granted another trial.

“Stand Your Ground’s” Newest Amendment

The new amendment to Stand Your Ground alters the language from the original legislation which determined that the defendant reasonably believed that it was a necessary to use the force that they did to prevent bodily harm; the current legislation alters the previous standard to requiring the defendant to believe that they are in imminent danger and the force or threat of force is necessary.

Florida’s Current “Stand Your Ground” Legislation

As stated in Florida’s Justifiable Use of Force statute, it is presumed that for a person to be able to use or threaten to use deadly force, he or she must have reasonably believed that there was an imminent threat of danger, death, or bodily harm against himself or another. There is a presumption that this type of imminent threat is present when another has unlawfully or forcibly entered into the home, residence, or vehicle of another.

As part of Florida’s Justifiable Use of Force statute, one is not required to retreat when he or she is attacked in his or her residence, home, or vehicle or if the person unlawfully and/or forcibly enters into the home with the purpose and intention to commit an act of violence or force within. The statutory provision to not retreat and to stand one’s ground within their home, after the most recent addition by Governor Rick Scott, will now permit “warning shots” to be included in the scope of force that a person may use to protect his or her home and family.

Limitations to “Stand Your Ground”

However, there are certain limitations to “Stand Your Ground” legislation. For instance, a person may not use force against another who has a lawful right to be in the dwelling, residence, or vehicle. This protection extends to landowners, titleholders, owners and lessees. Another limitation would be in the circumstance where the person intending to use self-defense was in the process of committing a criminal offense or the act is in furtherance of criminal conduct. Finally, force may not be used against a law enforcement officer engaged in the duties of his profession

“Stand Your Ground” Defense

“Stand Your Ground” legislation is still being developed by caselaw daily and its scope is constantly be defined and redefined. An experienced attorney will be able to provide you or a loved one with the necessary legal assistance and guidance to understand this complex area of law. Please contact Kevin J. Kulik in Fort Lauderdale for more information about self-defense and the new amendments to “stand your ground” legislation.

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