Everything You Should Know About Self-Defense Shootings

April 21, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

If you are in a stressful or violent scenario, you may be wondering if and how you can protect yourself. A lot of the time self-defense seems like a very straightforward concept. If you fear that you are in danger, you want to be able to protect yourself. However, it is important to follow all of the laws about just how you can go about protecting yourself.

If you have been in an altercation with a shooting and you are unsure of your rights, it is imperative that you reach out to a skilled defense attorney. Florida law has specific rules on what is justified as a self-defense shooting or not. Make sure you have the right defense team on your side to help you navigate the legal world in a self-defense shooting case.

This blog will go over the characteristics of a self-defense shooting, example cases, and the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida.

What is a Self-Defense Shooting?

Florida Statute Section 776 covers the justifiable just of force in Florida. Under the law it highlights two different types of self-defense. Section 776.012 covers the self-defense when you are not on your own property, and Section 776.013 covers when you are on your home property and shoot someone in self-defense.

In a self-defense shooting, the individual is the owner of a registered firearm, and has used their firearm as a means to protect themselves and their safety from another individual. The defendant must have reasonable grounds to believe that the other person was trying to cause real harm to themselves or someone else.

Under the Statute Section 776, at least one of the following instances needs to be proven by the defendant in a self-defense case:

  1. Regardless of whether the defendant was in their home or somewhere else, there needs to be reasonable belief that there is deadly force needed to prevent great bodily harm or imminent death, or to prevent a forcible felony by another individual.
  2. The defendant was not involved in any unlawful activities during the time of the shooting, and they were legally permitted to be where they were;
  3. The defendant had the right to be in the place where the shooting took place.

Examples of Self-Defense Shooting

The following is a list of potential examples that would qualify as a self-defense shooting:

  • If another person has entered your home or vehicle without your permission, and that they clearly intend to cause harm to you or someone else on your property.
  • If someone has legally entered your home or vehicle but has been asked to leave, and in response acts out with violence or violent intent.
  • If someone approaches you with violence or violent intent in a space where you are legally permitted to be, and you have reason to believe that they intend to cause serious harm or death to you or someone else. You must not be involved in any illegal activities at that time. It is important to note that these types of cases involve circumstantial evidence.

When is it Not Considered Self-Defense?

The following is a list of cases in which “duty to retreat” applies, and where it would not qualify as a self-defense shooting:

  • If the other person did not show any lethal intent but the defendant chooses to use a firearm in a public space.
  • If the defendant is the aggressor, then the duty to retreat may apply unless special circumstances are met.

What is Duty to Retreat?

In the past, there was one factor that would complicate a self-defense shooting in Florida. Referred to as “Duty to Retreat,” it was the suggestion that an individual should contact the police or retreat in the event of unlawful activity. If the specific activity did not pose an immediate threat, then the person was encouraged to try and leave the scene or contact the authorities instead of engaging with the person who was a potential threat.

The duty to retreat did not apply when you were in your home. This was called the “Castle Doctrine.” This doctrine was amended in 2005, to remove the duty to retreat when you were outside of your “castle” or home. For example, where there used to be a “duty to retreat” if you were in a public park, there is no longer longer that rule.

An instance where “duty to retreat” would not apply is if the the aggressor causing a threat approaches the defendant without the defendant having any contact or engagement with them. However, from 2005, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” changed the way self-defense was viewed, as it gives individuals the right to use or threaten to use force outside of their own property. This was an amended addition to what was originally the “Caslte Doctrine.”

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

Florida Statute Section 776.013 describes the justifiable use of force for home protection, or when someone fears great bodily harm or death. An individual has the right to “stand their ground” with a firearm if they are in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat, and can therefore threaten to use or use force. If the person has reason to believe that such conduct is necessary to defend him or herself or another person against someone who is threatening them in an unlawful manner. Even if deadly force is used and the person is shot and killed, if the defendant had a reasonable fear that the other person was going to harm or kill them, using the stand your ground rule will work as a defense.

Similarly, Florida Statue 776.012 applies to situations where you may need to protect yourself when you are not at home. An individual has the right to stand their ground when they are in a place where they have a right to be. An individual may use deadly force to protect themselves from deadly force or great bodily injury or to protect another person from deadly force or great bodily injury.

To read more about the history of the Stand Your Ground law and its characteristics, you can find our blog here.

Case Examples

There have been several cases of self-defense shootings in Florida that have gained statewide attention. The most well-known is the Trayvon Martin case, where George Zimmerman shot and killed the teen in what he believed to be self-defense. In an extended and controversial court trial, Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Another case example is from 2015, when Nick Julian IV got into an argument with Carlos Garcia, 37, about the loud music from his car. After Julian confronted Garcia several times, the confrontation turned violent. Julian ended up shooting and killing Garcia, and said it was in self-defense—saying, “He came at me with something. I don’t know what it was because it was dark…I just, I had no choice, I’m on my property..”

Finding a Self-Defense Shooting Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Self-defense is a complex area when it comes to criminal charges. The best way to ensure that you’ve utilized the protections Florida offers for a person involved in a self-defense crime is to seek out an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. With the help of an attorney, you can receive legal advice on how to gather and present the evidence, determine your rights during the time of the incident, and figure out how to proceed after getting a charge involving shooting a firearm.

If you or a loved one are a gun owner in Florida who has been involved with a shooting, make it your first priority to reach out to an attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state for various crimes. They understand the importance of figuring out a strong defense to your case, and have knowledge and years of experience. Contact our team at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today for a free consultation.

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