Jon H. Gutmacher, Esq.

Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer

Former Prosecutor & Police Legal Advisor,

Author: "Florida Firearms -- Law, Use & Ownership",

NRA Certified Firearms Instructor,

NRA Referral Attorney.

JON H. GUTMACHER, P.A.: Orlando Criminal Trial Attorney Services

Analysis of Florida's New Self Defense Law

Self defense of the home in Florida:

Chapter 776 of the Florida statutes specifies what you can or can’t do in lawful self defense. The Chapter is entitled “Justifiable Use of Force”. Self defense is generally a complete defense to crimes such as improper exhibition of a firearm or improper exhibition of a weapon; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; murder, homicide; manslaughter; and many other misdemeanors and felonies where you are defending yourself, your family, home, etc. Self defense may either be thru the use of “deadly force”, or the use of “non-deadly force”. The difference is often critical in what you can or can’t do. There are three sections of Chapter 776 which are really key to home defense. As a general rule, a person may use deadly force to defend their home from an assailant who is committing or trying to commit a “forcible felony”. A forcible felony generally includes the more serious crimes (burglary, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, sexual attacks, robbery, murder, homicide, etc.), or an attempt to commit them. The defenses are mostly contained in Florida Statutes 776.012; 776.013; and 776.032. Here’s how it works.

Florida Statute 776.013 states that a person defending their home or occupied vehicle from an "unlawful" forceful entry or attempted forceful entry by another may use deadly force to stop the invasion or attempted invasion of the property. In such instances they need not retreat before using deadly force, they need not warn the intruder of their intent to shoot, and there is an absolute presumption that the person attempting the entry was doing so with the intent to commit a violent act (i.e. "forcible felony"), and that the defender is presumed to be acting in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself. In other words – no arrest or prosecution is technically "legal" if someone without a right of entry or ownership is trying to break in, and you shoot them. In theory – the police and prosecution cannot try to show your fear was unreasonable, or that the intent of the assailant was not to do you or a family member severe injury. Of course, there are some limitations to this statute. The statute states that in order to take advantage of its protections you can’t be engaged in unlawful activity when the incident occurs, the defender must be aware that someone has broken into the house or occupied vehicle, or is attempting to do so, and the person entering the home or occupied vehicle does not have a right or invitation to do so. Anyone legally in the home or occupied vehicle may protect it. However, don’t go shooting at police officers in the performance of their duties. Using force or deadly force against a police officer who enters or is trying to entry a home or vehicle is not protected by the statute, and is highly illegal.

You may also use a lesser degree of force, “non-deadly force”, which is force that will not usually cause death or great bodily injury, to stop almost any crime so long as a firearm or other deadly weapon is not used by you. If you do use a firearm or other deadly weapon – the law gets complicated, and you may not be acting legally unless you are trying to stop a forcible felony. Under any circumstance, the use of force must be reasonable, and the degree of force used should not be excessive. Using excessive force can be a crime, and even a felony. Again, this area can get really complicated, and I highly recommend you read my book, “Florida Firearms – Law, Use & Ownership” if you want a more in-depth explanation.

Jon H. Gutmacher, P.A. | 407-279-1029 | Contact Us

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