The Castle Doctrine, in many states, has been replaced by the “stand your ground” bill. The Stand Your Ground bill, created in 2005, relates to a homeowner’s ability to protect their home or “castle.” Before 2005, it may have been referred to as the “Protect your Castle Law” of the “Castle Doctrine.” Simply put, it gives individuals the right to protect themselves through deadly force against an intruder in their home. The Castle Doctrine was followed by many states across the US, providing guidelines on protecting one’s home against trespassers and intruders of a threatening nature.
Taking the “stand your ground” bill one step further, interpretations can protect an individual that has a legal right to be anywhere to stand their ground and defend themselves, not just in their home.
When Does “Stand Your Ground” Apply?
To rely on the Stand Your Ground defense, the individual must have lawful access to the residence or dwelling, such as a home, building, or other structure they are occupying. The definition also calls for a porch or garage attached to the house as an extension of the home or dwelling and, therefore, is covered in most cases.
It’s also important to note that in some cases, a car can be considered a place where the “stand your ground” defense would apply. For example, if a car-jacking was in progress and the victim has reason to fear great bodily harm or death due to the incident, they may choose to use the “stand your ground” defense.
The individual, in any case, must be able to prove that they had a reasonable fear of significant bodily harm or death. Providing evidence of this can be complex, but if found to be in reasonable fear or what an ordinary and reasonable person would do under the circumstances, the individual can likely utilize the “stand your ground” defense.
Why is “Stand Your Ground” Important?
In many cases in the past, several states required the individual being threatened to have made a reasonable attempt to escape harm before exhibiting deadly force to protect themselves. This prior requirement might mean that if an individual was in fear for their lives and used deadly force to defend themselves, they may face severe charges if it wasn’t proven that they first made an attempt to escape the situation.
“Stand your ground” made an exception for this and allowed a threatened individual to utilize deadly force without first having to make an attempt to escape. Previously, victims would have had to prove that they made every reasonable effort available to them to escape imminent harm.
What Are Some Exceptions?
It may appear that the laws protect even criminals and allow them to use deadly force. There are specific exceptions, such as the individual must legally have a right to be in the building they are in (or the car) and not be committing a crime when they use force to defend themselves. For example, if an individual commits a robbery or burglary, they wouldn’t be protected with this defense against harm.
Individuals also aren’t allowed to use deadly force to protect themselves against a law enforcement officer doing their job, such as security on a property or serving a warrant.
The defense also doesn’t apply if the perpetrator is retreating. For example, if the victim feels a reasonable threat and begins to use deadly force, but the perpetrator is retreating or running away, in most cases, the defense would not apply.
Also, if the person (or, for example, the perpetrator) was trying to remove a child or grandchild that they possess legal custody or guardianship of, this would be an exception to the “stand your ground” law. If a grandmother was attempting to remove a grandchild from a situation and the homeowner exhibited deadly force, they likely wouldn’t be able to use the “stand your ground” law to defend their actions.
What is the Main Distinction Between the “Castle Doctrine” and the “Stand Your Ground” Defense?
As previously discussed, several states have adopted different forms or guidelines for what force you can use in dangerous or life-threatening situations. The main distinction between the “castle doctrine” and the “Stand your ground” defense is the absence of the requirement to retreat.
If the Castle doctrine were still in effect in Florida, as it is in some states, you would be required to make a reasonable attempt to escape the situation before using deadly force to protect yourself.
How Can an Attorney Help?
As you can probably deduce from the above paragraphs, a self-defense case can quickly become incredibly complex. A portion of the burden of proof lies in the hands of the defendant, and you must be able to prove a reasonable fear was imminent.
A skilled attorney will be well-versed in self-defense and how Florida law will view the situation you or a loved one is in.
Contact our office at (305) 204-5000 to reach one of our highly respected and dedicated attorneys who have compassion for those that need it the most. We are relentless in defending our clients from minor issues to major, life-changing charges.
Don’t hesitate to contact our Ft. Lauderdale office today to get your specific questions answered and get you on a path to put the past behind you and carry on with your life as you knew it.