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“Stand Your Ground” Laws in Florida

Florida stand your ground protest

Stand Your Ground photo by LaDawna Howard

“Stand your ground” laws, self-defense laws, have always been a subject of debate, since the person defending themselves must be able to prove that he or she was acting in self-defense. “Stand your ground” laws may vary from state to state, but generally allows an individual to use force, rather than retreat when being threatened. “Stand your ground” allows an individual to protect himself or herself when facing imminent danger until law enforcement arrives. Because the terms of the law are so subjective, “stand your ground” laws can be easily abused or misconstrued, making a law that was intended to give individuals a right to defend themselves very controversial.

“Stand your ground” laws in the state of Florida are as follows:

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” Title XLVI Florida Statues s.776.013(3)

Factors to take into consideration in addition to the Florida law as it is specifically laid out may include but are not limited to:

  • Who initiated the confrontation?
  • Whether the person evoking “stand your ground” pursed the victim?
  • Whether the person evoking “stand your ground” was on his or her own property when the incident occurred?
  • Whether a witness was present while the incident was occurring?
  • Whether there is physical evidence to prove that evoking the “stand your ground” law was necessary?
  • Details of what caused the case (home invasion, rape, black-market trade gone bad, etc.)

“Stand Your Ground” Laws Outside of Florida

“Stand your ground” laws were created with the intention to allow an individual to justifiably defend themselves, meaning that if you feel that your life is in danger, that you may “stand your ground” by defending yourself. 32 states within the United States observe “stand your ground” laws in one form or another. Generally, the law stipulates three main points:

  • You have the right to self-defense if you or someone else is in imminent danger
  • You have good reason to believe that immediate use of force is necessary to defend against danger
  • You cannot use more force that is reasonably necessary to defend against danger

If your act of standing your ground met all three of these stipulations, you may be within your legal rights to protect yourself or another individual under “stand your ground” laws.

The states that observe a form of “stand your ground” laws are:
Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Criticism of “Stand Your Ground” Law

Criticisms of “stand your ground” usually entail commentary like, “shoot first, ask questions later.” The most recent event to nationally bring attention to the “stand your ground” law was the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case. 28-year-old George Zimmerman shot a 17-year-old African American student named Trayvon Martin while Zimmerman was on neighbor watch for his gated community, a position that Zimmerman appointed to himself. Zimmerman claimed that he acted in self-defense, and therefore, under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, was acquitted at his trial. Martin, however, was not carrying a weapon at the time that he was shot.

Naturally, after State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, there has been high demands to not only amend but to repeal “stand your ground” laws. The argument is that anyone can claim that they felt that their life was in danger. There is also the question of how far is too far? Stand your ground is meant to protect individuals who have had to protect themselves by use of force, usually a form of violent force. The ends, however, need to justify the means.

Expunging Your Charge

If you were charged for committing a crime while attempting to protect yourself, you may be eligible to expunge your charge from your criminal record. Even if you were unable to claim “stand your ground” laws during the incident for which you were charged, you might be able to expunge the offense from your criminal record, provided that your offense meets the requirements for expungement in Florida. Once your offense is expunged from your criminal record, your offense and the related case will no longer appear on your criminal record and you can legally say that you were not convicted of the crime.