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Can You Go to Jail for Self-Defense in Florida?

What Happens If You’re Arrested Using a Deadly Weapon for Self-Defense?

As humans, we possess an innate instinct to defend ourselves against any perceived threat. In moments when we, our homes, or others are threatened, our natural inclination is to fight back and grab whatever object we believe will help us in our fight. However, it is essential to understand that there can be severe legal consequences for using a deadly weapon for self-defense.

While you may have been acting self-defense, you may still be charged with and prosecuted for aggravated assault, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. If your defense is not a success and you cannot prove you acted in self-defense, you can face jail time. In this blog, we will discuss what happens after an arrest, Florida Stand Your Ground laws, the elements of self-defense, and what is considered justifiable force.

What Happens After You Are Arrested in Florida

After an arrest, you can expect the following to occur:

  • You will be taken to the police station.
  • You will be told what the charges against you are.
  • You may be asked to provide a handwriting sample, participate in a lineup, or give a hair sample.
  • You will be fingerprinted and photographed.
  • You will be arraigned in court (which involves entering a plea of guilty or not guilty).

It is important to note that you have the right to request an attorney and to communicate with your attorney as soon as you are arrested. You should contact your attorney and avoid speaking with law enforcement until your attorney arrives to offer you counsel. During all the stages of your arrest, your attorney can ensure your rights are protected and help you get the charges dropped or dismissed.

Charged with Aggravated Assault After Acting in Self-Defense?

Self-defense can be a valid and strong defense against criminal charges, including violent crimes such as aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is defined under Florida law as an assault committed with a deadly weapon or with the intent to commit a felony. Under Florida Statute § 784.011, an assault occurs when a person intentionally threatens another person with violence (physically or verbally) when they have the capability to commit the act and such actions cause the other party to feel afraid that “such violence is imminent.”

In the state of Florida, a weapon is defined as any object capable of inflicting serious bodily harm or death. A deadly weapon is an item, when used as it was designed to, causes, or can cause death or great bodily harm.

Examples of objects that have been deemed deadly weapons include guns, knives, and bats. In determining whether an object is a deadly weapon, courts will consider factors such as the object's size, shape, and how it was used.

As we mentioned, even if you acted in defense of yourself, others, or your property, you could still face criminal charges. To defend yourself, you will need to prove you acted in self-defense.

The legal definition of self-defense is "the protection of one's person or property against some injury attempted by another." However, to successfully defend against a charge of aggravated assault, there are specific elements of self-defense that must be met.

Elements of Self-Defense

One of these elements is that the defendant must have believed that they were in imminent danger of bodily harm or death. The threat must have been real and not one that was imagined or fabricated by the defendant.

The force used in self-defense also must be reasonably proportional to the perceived threat. That is, the force used must not exceed what is necessary to defend oneself.

There are instances where the use of force can negate self-defense. For example, if someone is attacked but continues to use force, even when the attacker is no longer a threat, this may be seen as excessive force and can lead to charges of aggravated assault.

In Florida, individuals are expected to comport themselves in a reasonable manner, even when faced with a perceived threat. This means they are expected to try to retreat and avoid force if possible. Only when no other option remains can force be used for self-defense.

Florida Stand Your Ground Laws

Florida's Stand Your Ground Law is a self-defense law that allows individuals to use deadly force in situations where they feel threatened, without having to retreat first. The law applies to individuals who feel that they are under immediate danger and must use deadly force to protect themselves, their families, or their property.

Stand Your Ground also applies in public spaces or places where an individual has a legal right to be. It is important to note that the law only applies to individuals who are lawfully using deadly force.

If you are trespassing on a property, Florida Stand Your Grounds laws may not apply to your case, even if you acted in self-defense against another party. A defense strategy alleging self-defense will also not be applicable in cases if you were involved in an illegal activity when the offense occurred. For example, if you use a concealed weapon that you are not licensed to carry, you may not be able to argue that you acted in self-defense.

One case that illustrates the severe consequences of excessive force, the issue of self-defense, and “stand your ground” laws is that of Trayvon Martin in 2012. In this case, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, shot and killed Martin, an unarmed African American teenager. Zimmerman claimed that he acted in self-defense, but the prosecution argued that Zimmerman shot and killed Martin without cause.

The self-defense argument played a crucial role in Zimmerman's acquittal, as the jury found that his use of deadly force was justified given the perceived threat he faced during his altercation with Trayvon Martin. The defense team effectively presented the self-defense argument by focusing on the physical evidence and Zimmerman's state of mind during the altercation.

The defense argued that Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force in self-defense because he reasonably believed that his life was in danger due to the physical altercation with Martin. They presented evidence of Zimmerman's injuries, including a bloody nose and lacerations on the back of his head, to support their claim that Martin attacked Zimmerman and thus posed an imminent threat. Ultimately, the jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, indicating that they believed the self-defense argument presented by the defense.

What Is Justifiable Use of Force in Florida?

Justifiable use of force is a concept defined and regulated by Florida. It allows individuals to use force in certain situations, such as self-defense or defense of others. According to Florida Statute 776, a person is justified in using or threatening to use force, excluding deadly force, against another to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend themselves or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.

The statute also covers the justifiable use of deadly force in cases where an individual is resisting any attempt to murder them or commit any felony upon them. In these cases, an individual must have a reasonable fear that they are in danger and must be able to prove that they used no more force than was necessary for protection from death or great bodily harm.

When it comes to self-defense and defending others, there are two levels of force: lethal and non-lethal. Lethal force is only appropriate when an individual reasonably believes that their life or someone else's life is in immediate danger. Non-lethal force can be used when an individual reasonably believes that they are facing physical harm but not death or significant injury. Examples of non-lethal force include pepper spray, stun guns, and tasers.

Proving that You Acted in Self-Defense

To develop a strategy for a self-defense plea, the first step is to gather evidence that supports your case. This could include physical evidence, such as the weapon used, or any injury sustained by the defendant. You should also interview witnesses who can testify to the events that led up to the alleged assault and what happened during the incident.

Expert testimony can be particularly effective in a self-defense case. Medical experts, for example, can testify to the extent and severity of any injuries sustained by the defendant as well as whether the injuries sustained by the other party are considered justifiable. Forensic experts can examine any physical evidence to help support the defendant's version of events.

Once you have gathered evidence, you can work with your attorney to develop a strategy to show that you acted out of self-defense. This strategy can involve cross-examining the prosecution's witnesses to highlight inconsistencies in their stories or gaps in their knowledge of what happened. You may also be able to present evidence that contradicts their claims and illustrates the elements of self-defense have been met.

Here to Help Fight to Protect Your Rights & Freedoms

Individuals who find themselves in such situations in Florida should seek legal representation immediately. A skilled criminal defense attorney can assist in navigating the criminal justice system and present the best possible defense. They can conduct an investigation, retain experts, negotiate with the prosecutor, and defend the accused in court.

At The Hoffman Firm, our attorney is prepared and equipped to help you or a loved one mount a solid self-defense strategy if you are arrested for aggravated assault. Our firm handles a wide variety of criminal defense matters, including weapons offenses, assault, and aggravated assault. Backed by decades of legal experience, our criminal defense attorney can be trusted to work in your best interest and help you achieve the best possible case results.

Call (305) 928-1669 to schedule a case evaluation today!