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Defending Yourself at Home

A man was shot last month during an apparent home invasion in Jacksonville. The homeowner found an intruder on his property sometime around 2:30 a.m. on August 3, 2015 and, after an argument heard by neighbors, fired a shot that caused life-threatening injuries for the intruder. Though the neighborhood where this occurred is generally considered safe, there had been a rising number of residential burglaries in the area.

Stories like this one are not uncommon. Many gun owners cite self defense and the right to be safe in their own homes as a key reason for owning a firearm. However, in addition to Second Amendment rights, state laws govern what behavior is considered self defense.

Self Defense in Florida

The legal concept of self defense generally grants a person the ability to use force when their safety, or the safety of another, is under immediate threat. However, when the person claiming self defense is somewhere other than his or her home – such as on a public sidewalk, at a bar, or any other location where violence may occur – the doctrine to self defense may have some limitations. While many states impose a “duty to retreat,” which requires the person using self defense to flee the situation without using force if possible, Florida law does not impose a duty to retreat on those using force in defense of themselves or others.

Florida law normally limits what type of force may be used in self defense depending upon the type of threat the person experiences – deadly force may only be used in self defense if the person reasonably fears imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent a forcible felony from occurring. If those conditions are not present, then only non-deadly force may be used for self-defense.

Defense in the Home

However, the standard for deadly force is different if the person using self defense is in his or her home. Florida Law states that a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm is presumed if the deadly force is used against a person who was unlawfully entering, or had already unlawfully gained entry to, the person’s residence, dwelling, or occupied vehicle. Thus, if someone is entering a home illegally in Florida, it is presumed that the homeowner had the justification necessary to use deadly force against that person. This presumption is important – without it, such as in other self-defense situations, a person is required to provide evidence and prove that he or she had a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm. But with the presumption provided in defense-of-home situations, the person claiming self defense will be assumed to have that reasonable fear, and thus will have less to prove in order to successfully claim self defense.

Exceptions to Self Defense

It is worth noting that there are a few exceptions to this law – for example, a person cannot shoot a law enforcement officer who has a valid reason to be on the property. A person cannot claim self defense in the home if he or she was using the residence to further criminal activity or if the force was used against someone who had a legal right to be on the property. But generally, if a person feels threatened by an intruder in his or her home, Florida law provides allowances for that person to use deadly force, with few legal hurdles to claiming self defense.

If you or a loved one have used force in self defense, it can be important to have an lawyer on your side. You could potentially face criminal investigations or sanctions regarding the use of force – our lawyers can help you review all of your options and make the decision that is right for your individual circumstances. Contact the experienced Florida lawyers at The Baez Law Firm for a consultation today.

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