How Can Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law Protect Me from Criminal Prosecution?
In recent years there has been a great deal of public attention surrounding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Much of the controversy arises from cases where the law has been cited to justify the use of deadly force. But the Stand Your Ground rule also applies to situations involving non-deadly force. For instance, it can be invoked as a defense against an assault charge.
The basic concept behind Stand Your Ground is that when a person is faced with the “imminent use of unlawful force,” they do not have to retreat, but instead may respond by using such force as is “necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.” In other words, when a person uses non-deadly force in self-defense, they are immune from criminal prosecution under Florida law.
Second District: Judge Improperly Shifted Burden of Proof to Defense
Because Stand Your Ground provides absolute immunity, it is grounds for dismissing a criminal case before it ever reaches a jury trial. A recent decision from the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, Huckelby v. State, helps to illustrate this point. In this case, the appellate court said a trial judge erred in not granting a defense motion to dismiss when Stand Your Ground immunity clearly applied.
Here is some background. The defendant was having drinks with a friend at a bar. There was another patron at the bar (the victim) who was being “demanding and pushy,” according to the bartender. At some point, the defendant said he was leaving the bar to go to his truck. But the victim–a man the defendant did not know–shoved the defendant as he tried to walk through the door.
The defendant told the victim not to touch him. The victim then “dropped his hands to his side and told [the defendant] to keep his distance.” The defendant said he assumed the victim was about to try and hit him with a beer bottle. So the defendant punched the victim in the face.
Prosecutors later charged the defendant with criminal battery. Before the trial court, the defense moved to dismiss the charge under the Stand Your Ground law. The trial judge denied the motion, finding that the prosecution had shown “by clear and convincing evidence that the Defendant was not justified in using non-deadly force.”
The problem with that ruling, the Second District explained, was that it was based on a prior version of the Stand Your Ground law. Under current law, once the defense raises a “prima facie claim of immunity, the defendant has no further evidentiary burden.” That is to say, the law requires the prosecution to prove that immunity does not apply. Specifically, the prosecution needs to show that a “reasonably prudent” person in the defendant’s position would not have used non-deadly force when faced with a similar situation. The Second District therefore returned the case to the trial court with instructions to make this determination.
Contact Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Jose Baez Today
The Stand Your Ground law is just one legal tool that can help a defendant beat a serious criminal charge. If you need legal advice or representation from an experienced Orlando assault and battery attorney, contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.