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What Are the Rules on Self-Defense in Florida?

Panhandle Defense Firm Nov. 15, 2023

Women practicing self defence techniques with coach In 2021, according to statistics from the Florida Uniform Crime Report, there were 76,711 and 25,848 total arrests for simple assault and aggravated assault. In the state of Florida, residents are allowed to protect themselves, their property, or someone else from possible attack, harm, or a dangerous situation with the appropriate level of force. 

Unfortunately, there are situations where the use of force or deadly force in self-defense, defense of property, or defense of others may result in a criminal charge. If you're under criminal investigation for your otherwise violent acts but believe that you were only acting in self-defense, hiring a strategic Florida criminal defense attorney is imperative to help build your case. 

Attorney Tom McGuire is committed to offering experienced legal services and protecting individuals facing criminal charges from the worst possible situation. Tom can investigate every aspect of your case, educate you about the rules on self-defense, and determine the best way to fight your charges. The firm proudly serves clients across Pensacola, Escambia, and Santa Rosa Counties, including Crestview, Milton, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida. 

What Is Self-Defense?

Self-defense is the act of using violence, force, or deadly force to protect yourself, your property, or another person from imminent harm or danger. Pursuant to Florida law – Florida Statutes Section 776.012(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." 

This means that in criminal cases involving accusations of unlawful violent acts – including assault, battery, or aggravated assault – the accused person may be entitled to use self-defense as a legal defense. 

When Can It Be Used as a Legal Defense?

In Florida, defendants can use self-defense as an affirmative legal defense when facing different criminal charges involving unlawful violent actions, including, but not limited to: 

  • Battery 

  • Domestic violence 

  • Assault 

  • Assault with a deadly weapon 

  • Homicide 

  • Manslaughter 

Depending on the surrounding circumstances of the case, the defense counsel can prove self-defense as a legal defense to fight the allegations against the defendant and attempt to establish their innocence. 

Elements of Proving Self-Defense as a Legal Defense

When proving self-defense during a criminal trial in Florida, the alleged defendant – or their attorney – must prove the following elements: 

  • Imminent Danger: The defendant reasonably believed that they or someone else was in imminent danger of violence or harm. 

  • Existence of Threat: The defendant reasonably believed that a threat existed. 

  • Reasonable Force: The offender only used the reasonable level of force needed. 

  • Initial Aggressor: The accuser or other party was the initial aggressor. 

If you or someone you know has recently been arrested and charged with a crime for using force against someone else but only acted in self-defense, you need to reach out to a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your attorney can examine your case details thoroughly and seek to establish self-defense as affirmative evidence in pursuit of the most favorable outcome for your situation. 

Duty to Retreat in Florida

When facing possible danger, violence, harm, or death, your natural instincts can instantly kick in. You may decide to stand your ground, fight back, or retreat to safety. Essentially, there is no duty to retreat in Florida. Therefore, you may fight the attacker, stand your ground, and defend or protect yourself against imminent danger based on your unique circumstances. 

Castle Doctrine Law in Florida

According to Florida's Castle Doctrine law – also referred to as Protect Your Castle law – when your home or property is under attack, you are within your rights to protect yourself, the property, and your loved ones using the necessary level of force or deadly force. 

Florida's Castle Doctrine law has now been replaced with the "Stand Your Ground" law since 2005. Florida's Castle Doctrine law doesn't require homeowners to retreat from a potentially harmful or dangerous situation on their property or office. But, you are required to retreat to a place of safety for violent situations that occur in public places.  

Stand Your Ground Law in Florida

Under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, a person who is in their lawful residence has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand their ground and use or threaten to use non-deadly force or deadly force to defend or protect themselves from a violent situation in their home, vehicle, or workplace – as required. 

Strong & Reliable Legal Representation 

Understanding the rules on self-defense in Florida is crucial to building a solid strategy for your case. Attorney Tom McGuire is poised and ready to defend and represent individuals wrongfully arrested for violent acts in their criminal cases. As your attorney, Tom can fight vigorously for your rights, help establish that you only acted in self-defense, and keep your record as clean as possible. 

Contact Panhandle Defense Firm today to schedule a simple case evaluation with a dedicated criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Tom McGuire offers you the comprehensive representation and reliable advocacy you need in your case. The firm proudly serves clients across Pensacola, Escambia, and Santa Rosa Counties, including Crestview, Milton, and Fort Walton Beach, Florida.