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Florida Self Defense Laws

Self defense is generally the right to defend against any threat of force or force. In some situations, you are even allowed to use deadly force in self defense. However, the circumstances under which self defense and deadly or non-deadly force is allowed varies from state to state. Florida is one of 38 stand your ground law states. As of 2021 30 of those states have some form of statutory stand your ground laws while the others have case law establishing some form of being able to stand ones ground in self defense. Florida has changed its self defense laws in 2005 when the stand your ground law went into effect.

What is Considered Self Defense in Florida?

In Florida you have a right to defend yourself as long as you have a reasonable belief that someone is about to use force against you. Non-deadly force is allowed in self defense against any type of imminent use of force or threat of force and you do not have a duty to retreat. Deadly force in Florida is also permissible in self defense as long as you have a reasonable belief that this type of force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. You also do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self defense in Florida.

Can you Shoot Someone Stealing your Property in Florida?

Whether or not you can shoot someone in Florida for stealing your property depends on the circumstances. Typically deadly force is not allowed to defend property. However, Florida Statute 776.031 does allow the use of deadly force to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. A forcible felony in Florida includes robbery, home-invasion robbery, burglary, and carjacking per Florida statute 776.08 This means that if you have a reasonable belief that someone is about to carjack your car, you are allowed to use deadly force in self defense. You do not even have a duty to retreat before using deadly force in that situation.

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Florida Stand Your Ground Law vs. Castle Doctrine

Castle Doctrine Law

Castle doctrine laws are similar to stand your ground laws. However, they are narrower. Under castle doctrine laws you are only allowed to defend against an attack without having to try and retreat if you are in your house or a residence. Some states have extended the castle doctrine to also apply to places of work and even vehicles. However, unless in a specified place, a person would still have a duty to retreat before defending against an imminent threat of force.

Florida Stand Your Ground Law

The Florida stand your ground law is much broader than the castle doctrine laws and allows the use of force, including deadly force, in self defense without the need to retreat. Florida’s stand your ground law is established in Florida Statute Chapter 776.

Use of Non-Deadly Force in Self Defense

Under Florida Statute 776.012 (1) you are allowed to use any type of force in self defense, except deadly force, as long as you have a reasonable belief that someone was about to attack you and the use of force was necessary to defend yourself. You do not have a duty to retreat before using such force in Florida.

Use of Deadly Force in Self Defense

Under Florida Statute 776.012 (2) allows the use of deadly force for self defense or defense of others “if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.” Even if using deadly force in self defense, the Florida law does not require you to retreat.

Self Defense During Home Invasions

Florida Statute 776.013 allows the use of deadly force if you are legally in a dwelling or residence and

  • You have an imminent fear of death or great bodily harm OR

  • The person you intent to shoot is unlawfully and forcefully entering or has unlawfully and forcefully entered the residence or occupied vehicle OR

  • The person you intent to shoot is in the process of removing someone against their will from the residence or vehicle.

In order to be justified in the use of deadly force under these circumstances, you also must have had knowledge or reason to believe that an unlawful and forceful act was taking place. However, you cannot use deadly force against a person who has the right to be present at the residence or in the vehicle.

Duty to Retreat

In Florida, you do not have a duty to retreat under any of the above lawful scenarios where you can use self defense. However, Florida law does restrict the use of self defense and being able to stand your ground in some limited ways. Generally, you can stand your ground in Florida as long as:

  • You were not committing a crime AND

  • You were legally present in that place.

Florida Self Defense Lawyers

Florida’s self defense laws are pretty broad and even allow you to stand your ground, even when using deadly force, under certain circumstances. If you are charged with a violent crime or a battery or aggravated battery and you want to assert self defense, you should hire a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney. Kerstin Wade has handled many such cases and can advise you in your case. Kerstin Wade defends people in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Polk County, and has an office only a few miles away from the Tampa courthouse. Call Kerstin Wade today at 813-401-0130 for a free consultation.