Castle Doctrine Law – Florida

Castle doctrine laws are those that affirm a citizen’s rights to defend themselves, their homes and everyone in it from attack without any obligation to the state to attempt to retreat or withdraw from such a situation, possibly risking even greater injury or death.

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Castle doctrine laws are important because everyone should have the expectation of safety in their own home and any evildoers or malcontents who want to harm or attempt to harm someone in their home should expect the use of defensive force, even lethal force, by the occupants.

Most states have some form of castle doctrine law, but very few have a set of statutes that are as clear and sturdy as Florida’s.

Although not quite as zealous as most proponents would have you believe, Florida self-defense laws including their castle doctrine statutes are some of the very, very best in the nation and spell out plainly and no uncertain terms that people inside their homes or other dwellings may use an appropriate level of force against invaders.

Below is an overview of the most relevant parts of Florida’s castle doctrine laws.

Fast Facts

  • Florida law specifies that a person using force in defense of an occupied residence or dwelling has no obligation to retreat when using force in defense.
  • The force used in defense of the dwelling or residents and anyone else inside must be proportional to the force used by an intruder. However, if an occupant has a reasonable fear of great bodily injury or death lethal force is justified in defense.
  • Most importantly, an intruder who is attempting to forcibly enter the residence or dwelling is in the process of forcibly entering or had used force before gaining entry gives the occupants a presumption of fear of great bodily injury or death under the law.

Overview of Castle Doctrine Law in Florida

Florida has a broadly excellent set of castle doctrine statutes. So long as you are occupying a residence or a dwelling, you may use an appropriate level of force to protect yourself and anyone else that is legally within.

Under Florida law, a dwelling is also considered any building or vehicle that is designed for people to lodge within at night. It also includes a porch attached to an existing residence. Know that these laws apply just the same if you are attacked within your RV, trailer or even a tent.

In short, defenders may use a reasonable level of force to stop the unlawful use of force against themselves or anyone else inside the residence or dwelling.

This means that if someone is not using unlawful force that is likely to inflict death or great bodily injury, lethal force is not justified. However, Florida law has an important statute on this matter as it pertains to defense of residence or other dwelling.

If at any time an intruder is using force to gain entry, had used force to gain entry and is in the process of entering, or is inside the residents or dwelling after previously using force to gain entry, Florida law presumes that the resident or occupants of the home or dwelling do in fact have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury and lethal force may be used to repel the intruder.

It is also worth pointing out that lethal force may be used under Florida castle doctrine to prevent the commission or imminent commission of any other forcible felony in the home or dwelling or the commission of such against occupants of the home or dwelling. For instance, kidnapping, sexual assault, arson, etc.

Also note that attempting to forcibly remove someone from the home or dwelling, even without entering, still justifies the use of lethal force under the same circumstances. They definitely won’t be getting away with that technicality in the state of Florida.

Restrictions

The above does not apply if that would-be intruder is also a resident or legal occupant of the home or dwelling and in such cases castle doctrine and the associated immunities will not apply under the law.

Additionally, anyone threatening unlawful force that is outside the home or dwelling and is making no attempts to gain access to the home or dwelling may well be a threat, but in such circumstances the typical standards for determining the appropriate level of force and reasonable action and self-defense apply.

If you catch someone in your front yard that immediately begins threatening you but makes no move to gain entrance to the home, you could not shoot them out of hand just because they are threatening you.

Florida law states that force may be used to protect property in such cases it is being employed to terminate trespass or other criminal interference with a property, but at all times the level of force used must be proportional and may never be lethal force unless the person using force was first unlawfully threatened with a level of force that would result in death or great bodily injury or a forcible felony was occurring or about to occur.

In short, you cannot use lethal force to simply protect property unless occupants, residents or someone else are already being threatened.

Assessment

Florida features castle doctrine laws which have become the standard against which other similar sets of laws throughout the country are measured.

Whenever someone is occupying their home or some other dwelling, even a mobile vehicle designed for lodging people at night, lethal force maybe used against intruders with the assumption that the defender had a legitimate fear of death or great bodily injury so long is the intruder is attempting to forcibly enter or forcibly entered the dwelling or residence.

Relevant Florida Castle Doctrine Statutes

776.012 Use or threatened use of force in defense of person.

(1) 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. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

(2) 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 herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

776.013 Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—

(1) A person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to use:

(a) Nondeadly 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; or

(b) 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 herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

(2) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and

(b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

(3) The presumption set forth in subsection (2) does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or

(5) As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.

(b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.

(c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.

776.031 Use or threatened use of force in defense of property.—

(1) 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 prevent or terminate the other’s trespass on, or other tortious or criminal interference with, either real property other than a dwelling or personal property, lawfully in his or her possession or in the possession of another who is a member of his or her immediate family or household or of a person whose property he or she has a legal duty to protect. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.

(2) A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force only if he or she reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use or threatened use of force.—

(1) A person who uses or threatens to use force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in such conduct and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use or threatened use of such force by the person, personal representative, or heirs of the person against whom the force was used or threatened, unless the person against whom force was used or threatened is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using or threatening to use force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

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