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Can "Stand Your Ground" Always Be Used as a Defense?

Posted By Ryan Albaugh || 13-Sep-2019

Generally, Florida’s “stand your ground” law protects people from facing criminal charges if they use or threaten to use force against a person who unlawfully places them at risk of harm. The defender's actions must be equal to those of the assailant. That means if Bill punches Tom, Tom can push or threaten to push Bill to stop the attack. If Tom was later charged with assault, he could justify his use of force by referring to the state’s “stand your ground” law. However, there are situations when this defense does not always hold up in court.

When Can Someone Use Force Against Another Person?

Under Florida Statute 776.013, a person can use or threaten to use force when they fear they are in imminent danger of being injured by someone else. They can use deadly force if the harm they face is great bodily injury or death. In the earlier example, if Tom pulled a gun out after Bill punched him, he might not be able to use the “stand your ground” defense. However, if he brandished his weapon because Bill had a knife and threatened to stab him, the justifiable use of force protection may hold up in court.

Does a Person Have to Try to Get Away Before Using Force?

In Florida, a person does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use force against an attacker. Returning to the previous example, Tom would not have to try to escape the situation before protecting himself. The moment Bill started acting aggressively, Tom had a right to act defensively.

When Does the Law Not Apply?

Under certain circumstances, the “stand your ground” defense does not apply.

Those include instances in which:

  • The person against whom force is used is the owner of the residence or vehicle in which an altercation occurs
  • The person is the child of the individual against whom force is used or threatened to be used
  • The person who uses force is committing a crime
  • The person who force was used against is a law enforcement officer

Although Florida’s justifiable force statute allows individuals to protect themselves in situations that could be a threat to their safety, the law is not without controversy. Recent cases have sparked conversations across the nation, asking which person gets to use the defense and what happens if the initial assailant backs off but the person being attacked still fires their weapon.

Recently, a Florida man, M. Drejka, used the “stand your ground” defense in a case where he was accused of fatally shooting another man, M. McGlockton. The incident happened in July of 2018 when Drejka got involved in an altercation with McGlockton over a handicap parking space. Surveillance video showed McGlockton pushing Drejka to the ground. Drejka, who had a concealed-carry permit, pulled out his gun and shot McGlockton.

Police officers did not arrest Drejka after the shooting, citing the state’s “stand your ground” law. Drejka was later charged with manslaughter for the incident.

During the trial, Drejka’s attorneys argued that their client’s action was justifiable because he was responding to an attack. However, the prosecutor’s said that McGlockton could be seen on the video backing away after shoving Drejka, which means he was no longer under imminent threat of harm, and he could have called the police.

Drejka was found guilty of manslaughter. He will be sentenced in October of 2019.

Schedule a Consultation with Albaugh Law Firm

If you were accused of a violent crime, such as assault, call our skilled attorney today. We have over 70 years of combined experience and know what defenses can be brought up in these types of cases. When you retain our services, we will thoroughly review your circumstances and explore every legal option to build a strategy to fight charges.

Get started by calling us at (904) 637-1839 or contacting us online.