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What You Need to Know About Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

Florida's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law hit the books in 2005 and immediately drew national attention along with a lot of controversy.

On one hand, some people feared that Florida's new law would "turn back the clock" to the days of the Wild West. On the other hand, gun advocate groups and other supporters viewed the law as an expansion of one's right to use deadly force, anywhere, anytime, when they feel threatened or believe that violence is imminent.

Before Stand your Ground

Prior to Stand Your Ground, a person could use only non-deadly force to defend against the imminent use of unlawful non-deadly force. Deadly force was authorized only to defend against imminent deadly force or great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony.

According to state law, deadly force could only be used to defend against an imminent threat of deadly force, great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony. Unless a person was in their home or workplace, they had a duty to retreat before using deadly force against an intruder. If they failed to do so, the aggressor would be able to use their own actions against them in court.

What is Stand Your Ground?

The Stand Your Ground Law was an important measure for the Florida Legislature, because it states that no person is required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack. While Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law is a very controversial law that many people oppose, it’s expansion of the "Castle Doctrine," is actually very narrow. For example, it doesn't apply to places outside of one’s home.

Florida's Stand Your Ground law allows someone to use deadly force in self-defense "if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

The law stems from a wave of murders during the 2000s where criminals repeatedly shot at or otherwise attacked innocent people. In 2010, in response to Trayvon Martin's murder by George Zimmerman, Florida created the controversial Stand Your Ground law. The law states that: "A person who is in lawful possession of a firearm has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." Additionally, the State v. DeRossett case also applied to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

To be reasonable, the person using deadly force must assess the situation to determine if it is reasonably possible for him or her to retreat and refrain from using deadly force. The law is a logical expansion of the common law principle of “castle doctrine” which says that individuals have the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect. In a number of states, the standard for self-defense has shifted from the defendant showing that they acted reasonably to the prosecution having to prove that the defendant acted unreasonably. themselves against an intruder in their home.

The Pros and Cons of Stand Your Ground

Despite its vagueness, the "Stand Your Ground" law holds great political power and legal weight because it allows people to use deadly force if they believe they are in imminent danger.

While many claim the law is a necessary step for law enforcement to enforce and save lives, others argue that it’s morally questionable because it allows people to go about their everyday lives while claiming they were in danger at the same time. A recent study by the American Journal of Public Health suggests that the majority of individuals in the United States who are subjected to a deadly force during an attack are already the victims of abuse.

How to protect yourself

Whether you're on the move or in a small town, there are plenty of places where you'll want to be careful if you don't want to get shot dead. That's because there are hundreds of thousands of people living in America who carry guns for a variety of reasons. More and more states are following Florida’s lead and passing their own version a "Stand Your Ground” law.  In some states, you don't even need to leave your house to have a "Stand Your Ground" defense.


The bottom line is that, in Florida, if you use deadly force to defend yourself, you are immune from prosecution.

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