Stand Your Ground Hearing Underway in Florida Movie Shooting Case
The defendant in a highly publicized Tampa Bay murder case took the stand February 27, 2017, explaining his version of the facts that led to him shooting and killing a man in a movie theater back in 2014. The Tampa Bay Times reported on the Stand Your Ground hearing, which is a preliminary proceeding intended to determine whether the case should go forward to a full trial on the matter. Curtis Reeves, the defendant, testified about the life-or-death situation as he perceived it. An altercation with another man in the theater about cell phone use had escalated into a tense encounter, where Reeves believed he was justified in using force to protect himself. The case raises – once again – the defense of Stand Your Ground and how it works under Florida criminal law.
Self-Defense Under Florida Law
Traditionally, self-defense is a use of force that’s justified in order to protect one’s self, his or her property, or another person. There are limitations on the amount of force that’s justifiable, because it must be proportionate to the threat imposed by the other person. For instance, it may not be considered self-defense to shoot someone when he or she is threatening you with a small rock.
Until recently, you could only claim self-defense to avoid a murder charge if you were either in your home or at least attempted to retreat. In addition, you could only present a claim of self-defense at your trial.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground Defense
In 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law, which has two major implications:
- A person who is attacked anywhere outside the home has no duty to retreat before using force for self-defense. Individuals can “stand their ground” and use justifiable force where necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm, or when required to prevent the offender from committing a forcible felony.
- Florida’s Stand Your Ground law enables a person to raise a self-defense claim at two different stages of a trial. A defendant can request a pre-trial hearing to address whether the use of force was justified. If the judge agrees with the self-defense claim, the charges would be dismissed.
If the judge does not agree with the use of force, the case proceeds to trial before a jury. The defendant has a second chance to state a claim for self-defense to the jury, who will determine whether the use of force was justified.
A Qualified Florida Criminal Lawyer is the Key to Your Defense
There’s a reason Stand Your Ground cases make headlines in Florida and throughout the country: Not only are they controversial, but they’re extremely complex. Fortunately, you do get a second chance to argue self-defense at trial, even if you don’t prevail at a Stand Your Ground hearing. However, having an experienced attorney is crucial to presenting your defense in court, especially if you’re facing murder charges. Attorney Kevin J. Kulik has an extensive background in all types of Florida criminal cases and will discuss all of your defense options. Please contact our Fort Lauderdale office today for a confidential consultation.