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What Does A Defendant Need To Allege To Support A Self-Defense Claim?


Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is often misunderstood. You cannot simply say, “I acted in self-defense,” and expect to be acquitted of a murder charge. Rather, there is a multi-step process involved once a defendant moves to invoke Stand Your Ground immunity.

Let’s start with when Stand Your Ground even applies. Under Florida law, a person is justified in using or threatening deadly force when they believed at the time it was necessary to prevent either “imminent death or great bodily injury” to themselves or another person, or to prevent the “imminent commission of a forcible felony.” Under any of these circumstances, the defendant may argue they had the right to stand their ground and not retreat, provided they were not committing a crime themselves and they were in a place where they otherwise had the right to be.

The defendant must respond to a criminal charge by alleging sufficient facts that, if proven, raise a “prima facie claim of self-defense immunity.” Once the defendant meets this requirement, the burden then shifts to the prosecution to prove–by a preponderance of the evidence–that Stand Your Ground does not apply. This means the trial court must hold an evidentiary hearing and decide the issue on the merits.

Appeals Court Throws Out “Stand Your Ground” Dismissal

Again, the first step in this process requires the defendant–not the state–to raise sufficient allegations that would support a Stand Your Ground claim. It is therefore not enough to simply argue self-defense without providing an adequate foundation. Indeed, a Florida appeals court recently overturned a trial judge’s decision to dismiss a case on self-defense grounds precisely because the defendant failed to make their prima facie case at the first stage of the process.

The case, State v. Moore, involves a defendant charged with second-degree murder. According to prosecutors, the defendant shot and killed the victim with a shotgun. The defendant claimed he acted in self-defense and moved to dismiss under the Florida Stand Your Ground law.

According to the defendant’s filing with the trial court, he called 911 to report that he had shot the victim with a shotgun. The defendant said he told the 911 operator that the victim “had threatened him.” Police arrived at the scene and found the victim lying dead with a single shotgun wound. The defendant told police he had some cuts on his face that were “caused” by the victim. The defendant also said the victim had punched him a couple of weeks earlier.

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and dismissed the murder indictment. The Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed that order, however, and reinstated the indictment. The appellate court said that under the circumstances, the defendant failed to make his prima facie case. Specifically, he did not allege sufficient facts that showed he used deadly force based on a “reasonable belief that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily injury”. Indeed, the defendant’s motion failed to allege an “altercation” between the defendant and the victim prior to the fatal shooting.

Contact Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez Today

Even when you know that you have lawfully acted in self-defense, never assume that police or prosecutors will take you at your word. Your first call should be to a qualified Orlando murder defense lawyer who can advise you of your rights. Contact the Baez Law Firm today if you need to speak with someone right away.


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