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Miami Stand Your Ground Lawyer


Miami Stand Your Ground Lawyer: Understanding Florida’s Controversial Self-Defense Law

Florida’s stand your ground law allows people to use deadly force to defend themselves if they reasonably believe it’s necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. But how does this controversial law actually work in practice? As a Miami criminal defense lawyer, I’ve seen many cases involving stand your ground. Here’s what you need to know about this complex and often misunderstood self-defense law.

What is Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law?

Florida’s stand your ground law is codified in Florida Statutes Chapter 776. It basically says you can use deadly force to defend yourself or others if you reasonably believe it’s necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.

The key part is it removes the common law “duty to retreat” if you can do so safely. In other words, you no longer have to try running away or avoiding the confrontation before using deadly force.

Stand your ground also provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability if the force was lawful self-defense. Defendants can request a pre-trial hearing where the judge decides if they’re immune under stand your ground.

So in summary, the law gives you the right to “stand your ground” and use force without retreating first. And if justified, you can’t be criminally charged or sued.

Controversial Cases Involving Stand Your Ground

Florida’s stand your ground law has been controversial ever since it passed in 2005. Critics argue it promotes violence by allowing people to “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Several high-profile cases have sparked debate over the merits and problems with stand your ground:

  • Trayvon Martin – In 2012, George Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed self-defense under stand your ground and was acquitted at trial. The case ignited protests over racial bias and the law’s expansion of self-defense rights.
  • Markeis McGlockton – In 2018, Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton during a dispute over a handicapped parking space in Clearwater, Florida. Drejka claimed self-defense under stand your ground. But prosecutors argued he initiated the confrontation, and a jury convicted Drejka of manslaughter.
  • Curtis Reeves – In 2014, retired police captain Curtis Reeves shot Chad Oulson in a movie theater after an argument over Oulson’s cell phone use. Reeves claimed stand your ground immunity but was denied. His murder trial is still pending.

These examples show how the law’s boundaries are still evolving. The self-defense justification depends heavily on the specific circumstances of each case.

How Does the Stand Your Ground Defense Work?

Let’s break down how you actually assert a stand your ground defense in Florida:

  • Defendant claims justifiable use of force – The defendant admits using deadly force against the victim but claims it was lawful self-defense under stand your ground.
  • Pre-trial immunity hearing – The defendant files a motion seeking immunity from prosecution. At the “stand your ground hearing,” the defendant must prove by a preponderance of evidence that their use of force was justified.
  • Judge decides immunity – If the judge determines the force was lawful self-defense, the defendant is immune from prosecution and civil liability. The criminal charges are dismissed. If immunity is denied, the case proceeds to trial where the defendant can still argue self-defense.
  • Jury instruction on stand your ground – If it goes to trial, the jury will be instructed on stand your ground. But the defendant must prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher burden than at the pre-trial hearing.
  • Acquittal or conviction at trial – Based on the evidence, the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty by reason of self-defense under stand your ground.

So in summary, a stand your ground case involves an immunity hearing and potentially a jury trial where self-defense is argued again. An experienced Miami criminal defense attorney can help navigate this complex process.

What Does the Defense Have to Prove?

To succeed with a stand your ground claim, the defense must prove these key elements:

  • Reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm – You must have an objectively reasonable belief that such harm is about to happen unless you use deadly force. A vague threat or verbal argument does not meet this standard.
  • No duty to retreat – You don’t have to avoid the confrontation or run away if possible. But you can’t be the initial aggressor using force against others.
  • Proportional force – You can only use force reasonably necessary to defend yourself or others. You can’t use excessive force out of proportion to the threat faced.
  • No unlawful activity – You can’t be engaged in illegal activity when using force. For example, a drug dealer can’t claim stand your ground against buyers or rivals.

The defendant has the burden to prove these elements at the pre-trial hearing. Police and prosecutors thoroughly investigate the circumstances to determine if the use of force was justified or excessive.

Consulting a Miami Criminal Attorney

I’ve focused my career on defending stand your ground and self-defense cases in Miami and statewide. Here are some key reasons to consult an attorney if you’ve used force against another:

  • Evaluate your self-defense claim – An attorney can objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of your stand your ground defense based on the evidence.
  • Guide you through the process – An experienced lawyer knows how to successfully argue immunity hearings and trials asserting justification under this law.
  • Advocate for your rights – Police may violate your rights or rush to judgment against you. A lawyer ensures you’re treated fairly throughout the investigative and legal process.
  • Avoid unintended admissions – Anything you say to police could compromise your defense. An attorney handles interactions with law enforcement.
  • Negotiate charges or sentencing – If the facts aren’t clearcut, we may be able to negotiate reduced charges or sentencing rather than risk trial.
  • Preserve evidence – Your lawyer can act quickly to gather physical evidence, interview witnesses, and document the scene to support your stand your ground claim.

Do not speak to police and immediately call a Miami stand your ground attorney if you’ve used any force against another person. Time is of the essence to protect your rights and build the strongest case possible.

Conclusion: A Complex and Controversial Law

I hope this article helped explain Florida’s stand your ground self-defense law and how it works in real cases. It’s a complex and polarizing statute open to interpretation by judges and juries.

The bottom line is stand your ground removes the duty to retreat and provides immunity when using force. But claiming justification is challenging and highly fact-specific.

If you face charges involving a self-defense claim, you need an experienced Miami criminal defense lawyer on your side. I have the skills and track record to defend your rights at every stage. Don’t hesitate to contact me for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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