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When Is Use of Force Justified in Florida?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

March 23, 2021

In some situations, if you use or threaten to use force against someone else, you could be charged with assault and/or battery. However, circumstances exist in which your use of force may be justified, and you are immune from prosecution, meaning you may not be charged or convicted for your actions.

Under Florida statutes, you may be justified in using force if you are protecting yourself, others, or property from imminent danger. Often, the statutes are referred to as "stand your ground" laws because you do not always have a duty to retreat before attempting to stop an attacker. Note that the self-defense or defense of property laws is extremely nuanced. The circumstance that triggered your actions must have met certain criteria for your conduct to be warranted.

Below are the situations in which self-defense or defense of others or property is justified:

  • Defense of a person (Florida Statutes § 776.012): Use of force against another may be justified when done to protect the person or someone else from an imminent threat. This means that if the defender reasonably believed that another was trying to harm them, they can meet force with force. They do not have a duty to retreat before using force.

If the attacker was engaged in conduct that could have resulted in imminent death or great bodily injury or constituted a forcible felony, the defender may be justified in using deadly force to prevent such harm. However, if the defender was committing a crime themselves or they were somewhere they were not lawfully allowed to be, their actions would not be considered a defense of self or others. In other words, they could be tried for causing or attempting to cause harm to another.

  • Home protection (Florida Statutes § 776.013): Use of force against another may also be justified when the attacker was unlawfully in or forcibly entered the defender’s residence and they had or were about to use unlawful force. If the attacker was in the process of committing a forcible felony, the defender has a right to use deadly force to protect themselves or others from death or great bodily harm.

However, in this situation, the use of force is not justified if the defender was committing a crime or the alleged attacker had a right to be in the residence, was removing a child or grandchild from the home, or was a law enforcement officer.

  • Defense of property (Florida Statutes § 776.031): If someone is trespassing on another person’s property or in the process of destroying the property, the owner may use force against the offender. They are justified in using deadly force when it is necessary to prevent the offender from committing a forcible felony. As long as the owner is not committing a crime and in a place where they are lawfully allowed to be, they have a right to stand their ground.

When Use of Force Is Not Justified

Florida Statutes § 776.041 enumerates a couple of different situations in which a person’s use of force is not justified. Generally, these situations are when the person who used force was considered the aggressor.

Such circumstance includes when the individual:

  • Was committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony
  • Provoked the person whom they used force against

What Is a Forcible Felony?

In Florida’s self-defense and defense of property laws, deadly force may be justified when the attacker is committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony.

Under Florida Statutes § 776.08, a forcible felony includes:

  • Treason
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual battery
  • Carjacking
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging a bomb
  • A felony involving physical violence against another

If you were charged with a crime in Miami, our attorneys at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. will review all available evidence and listen to your side of the story to determine what defenses can be raised.

Schedule an immediate case evaluationby calling (305) 330-1360 or submitting an online contact form.