Stand Your Ground / Self-Defense Laws in Florida

Florida is a state with excellent, though lengthy, pro-self defense statutes on the books, including their equivalent of a “Stand Your Ground” provision.

Florida places significant emphasis on correct discrimination of a threat against yourself or someone else before you can use force in return.

But, their laws also take pains to codify that you have the right to defend yourself and no duty to retreat so long as you are in any place that you legally have a right to be; your home, your business, your vehicle or any public space.

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So it seems that Florida’s self-defense laws are staunchly pro-defender, but this doesn’t make it anything close to the “Wild West” or free-fire zone that some detractors claim.

You must make sure you are acting rationally and correctly inside the bounds of the law if you want to avoid prosecution in the aftermath of a self-defense encounter!

Read on, and we will unpack Florida’s stand your ground statutes together.

What You Need to Know

  • Florida law clearly states that lethal force is only justified in defense if the use of said lethal force is necessary to prevent the risk of death or great bodily injury to oneself or someone else, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
  • Florida law states that one may act in defense wherever they have a right to be, including but not limited to their home or business, or while occupying a vehicle or another conveyance.
  • Contrary to popular belief, lethal force may not be used to prevent trespass in the state of Florida. It can be used to prevent a forcible felony, however, such as home invasion or a forced entry into an occupied structure or conveyance.

General Provisions

Use of force on defense in the state of Florida is a pretty simple affair, though some of the legal statutes can run on for quite some time.

Simply stated, one may use force to prevent or counter the illegal use of force against them or someone else, and the force used must be proportional to the attackers force. This means you cannot use lethal force to defend against a non-lethal threat, unless that non-lethal threat happens to coincide with the commission of a forcible felony.

In the State of Florida you may defend yourself anywhere you legally and lawfully have a right to be, be that on private or public property, and so long as you are not committing some other crime or violation.

So long as these standards are met, you have no obligation to retreat, no escape is almost always the better choice if it is open to you.

Restrictions

You must take great care that you are not employing any defensive force against a person who is a legal resident, tenant, or other authorized person who has a right to be in the dwelling or vehicle where the incident occurs.

While this does not give a person who has a legal right to occupy a place carte blanche to use force illegally, it will greatly complicate things should you “stand your ground” and attempt to defend yourself if you have any way to leave and diffuse the situation.

Make sure you read the state statutes carefully, included below, you better understand this precept.

Assessment

Florida is a state where residents enjoy excellent protection under the law when it comes to self-defense and use of force. Florida has been regarded as something of a pioneer when it comes to stand your ground laws, both in praise and derision.

The truth is somewhere in-between, of course, and one need not think you may use force carelessly or haphazardly as a civilian.

Relevant Florida Use of Force 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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