Self Defense and Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

The Florida legislature has recently enacted a law that permits you to stand your ground, anywhere, anytime, you are attacked. No longer must you take the risk of retreating from an attacker before protecting yourself. The protection given by the law is the highest protection, immunity from prosecution. No longer must you place your fate in the hands of the jury while pursuing the affirmative defense of self-defense. Your legal team can go proactive to prevent charges from being filed, or dismissed if they have been filed already. With proper legal representation you may be entitled to immunity from prosecution for any harm, even death, which you inflict as a result of your efforts to lawfully defend yourself. The procedure for obtaining dismissal of criminal charges is complex and uncertain. The law is in its infancy and the various courts are struggling with its application. A defendant who wants to rely upon the Stand Your Ground law must have an experienced, aggressive, legal team willing to fight through this uncertainty to obtain the result you deserve. At The Law Office of Timothy Hessinger, Attorney Tim Hessinger has more than 20 years of experience battling complex cases in Florida's criminal court.

The new law codified in Florida Statutes 776.013(3) (2006) states:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be 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.

This new law expands upon Florida's preexisting castle doctrine and permits one to stand their ground anywhere. Florida Statutes 776.032(1) then holds in pertinent part:

A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force...

This language makes clear that the law provides a true immunity and not merely an affirmative defense. The Florida legislative session law notes demonstrate the true intent behind the new law stating; "The Legislature finds that it is proper for law-abiding people to protect themselves, their families, and others from intruders and attackers without fear of prosecution or civil action for acting in defense of themselves and others". Ch. 2005-27 at 200, Laws of Florida. See Peterson v State, 983 so. 2d 27 (Fla. 1 stDCA 2008)

Around the State of Florida the appellate courts have been wrestling with the proper procedure for pursuing a claim of immunity. The First District Court of Appeal has embraced an evidentiary hearing permitting the trial court to weigh and confront factual disputes to render a ruling. (See Peterson) However, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that when the State files a proper traverse the motion for dismissal must be denied by the trial court and the case proceeds to trial. (See Velasquez v State, 9 So. 3d 22 (Fla. 4 thDCA, 2009)) The Florida Supreme Court has not yet issued an opinion on the proper procedure for asserting an immunity claim in pre-trial litigation. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of a Motion to Dismiss based on FS 776.032(1) immunity, but does not comment on procedure. State v Heckman, 993 so. D 1004 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007)

Experienced Defense for Stand Your Ground Cases

Attorney Tim Hessinger has the knowledge, experience and determination to navigate the uncertainties of this evolving legal field to take maximum advantage of the protections this new law affords our clients. With this much uncertainty your legal team must be thoroughly familiar with the new law, all district court interpretations, and the very purposes behind enactment of the new law.

When Tim represents a client who acted in self-defense they will aggressively document all of the facts and present a clear picture of the alleged victim's aggression, provocation and instigation of the conflict that gave rise to their client's need to defend himself. When brought into the case immediately, Tim will meet with the investigating officer to assert his client's immunity. If the Defendant has already been arrested, Tim will seek a meeting with the Prosecutor, presenting the facts and the law to seek out a pre-indictment dismissal of the charges. If charges have already been filed, Tim will file a motion to dismiss the charges.

If you have been charged with a violent crime and the alleged victim instigated the conflict, The Law Office of Timothy Hessinger can aggressively pursue a claim of immunity on your behalf to prevent arrest, indictment, and/or prosecution. At each and every stage of the criminal process we will be fighting for you.

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