Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws Are Complex and Tense
If you live in Florida or watch Florida news, you’ve heard this term many times before. You probably first heard it in 2012, when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member in Sanford, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen, sparking outrage and racial tension across the country. You heard it again when one neighbor shot another over a skateboarding dispute in Valrico, or when a man, agitated by the loud music in the car next to him, fired a number of shots into the car, killing one teenager. Now, Stand Your Ground is in the news again, as the trial begins for a former police officer who killed a fellow movie-goer in a Wesley Chapel theatre.
Stand Your Ground cases seem to be everywhere in Florida. So, what exactly does the Stand Your Ground law mean?
The law is a justification for using deadly force on another person. According to Florida Statutes, deadly force can be justifiably used or threatened when “the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death imminent death or great bodily harm . . .” or to prevent “the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
If an armed robber enters a home, for example, the homeowner could kill or threaten to kill them, citing reasonable fear. It generally serves to protect people who are threatened in their own homes or vehicles. In short, it allows people to “stand their ground,” rather than retreat, if they feel threatened.
Along with Florida, 19 other states have Stand Your Ground laws, though sometimes with different names:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
To win with a Stand Your Ground defense, the defendant must prove the imminent threat. George Zimmerman, for example, was found Not Guilty in the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, because evidence and witnesses allegedly proved that Zimmerman acted in self-defense. On the other hand, Trevor Dooley, the man who shot his neighbor over a dispute, was convinced of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison after the jury found that he instigated the confrontation. To decide if an imminent threat existed, factors taken into account include the height and weight of those involved, words or actions that were exchanged before the killing, and if the weapon was shown before the confrontation or killing. These cases are often complicated and emotional, which is why they draw national attention.
The Wesley Chapel movie theatre trial is currently ongoing. Like other Florida Stand Your Ground trials, no matter the verdict, it is sure to be tense on both sides.
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.