Self Defense in Florida
What is Self Defense in Florida?
Self Defense is an affirmative Defense that says “although you committed a battery, or an assault, or some other crime involving you fighting… you cannot be found criminally liable if you were defending yourself.” In general, the Defense requires evidence that the Defendant was not the aggressor and that he defended himself with reasonable force to combat the force being used by the attacker. In other words, a non-lethal threat should be defended with non-lethal self defense.
For example, a guy punches the Defendant and the Defendant pulls out a gun and shoots the guy, it is highly unlikely that a self-defense theory would be legally sufficient because the level of force used to defend was dramatically more egregious than the harm posed. Therefore, when looking at cases it’s important to understand context is important, with factual variances creating difficulty with bright-line rules to when a self defense argument would work. It’s important to talk to your lawyer about your specific set of facts to see if Self Defense in Florida is applicable to your case.
How does it work?
Because self Defense is an affirmative defense, it means that actual evidence of a need for self defense must be produced by the Defense. See S.D.G. v. State, 919 So.2d 704 (Fla 5th DCA 2006). In S.D.G. the 5th District Court of Appeals said, “where a defendant did not initiate the fight and was acting to protect herself from her attacker, the defense of self-defense applies. Once Appellant produced evidence supporting her claim of self-defense, the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant’s actions were not taken in self-defense to sustain a finding of guilt.”
Example of Self Defense in Florida: S.D.G. is a an example of a Self Defense case. In S.D.G. a police officer observed two people fighting, the Defendant being one of the two that was fighting. The police officer ordered them to separate, but the two refused. Eventually, the officer decided to use his taser to break up the fight. Defendant was arrested for disorderly conduct. The State only called that officer as the single witness in the case. The Defendant had two witnesses who testified that the Defendant was not the aggressor and only fought back in self defense. The S.D.G. Court ruled that Self-Defense was applicable: the Defendant introduced evidence that she was not the attacker or provoker, and that she fought back out of necessity. Because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this was not accurate, the Defendant must prevail. The District Court reversed, requiring the Circuit Court to discharge the Defendant from the crime.