Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has gotten a lot of attention in the press over the last few years since it has been a focal point in many high-profile cases, including the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. It can be confusing for some to know where they stand, especially in a personal injury case.
In the state of Florida, the stand-your-ground law 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.”
So what happens if someone involved in a case like this gets injured? Do they have a civil case or personal injury case against the person who injured them?
Self-Defense and Immunity Against a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you are involved in a stand-your-ground case and you have injured another person, there are a couple of things to figure out. If you were the one standing your ground, you may not be liable for injuries you cause if you can claim self-defense or if you have immunity stemming from the stand-your-ground law.
In a criminal or civil case, self-defense is also known as an “affirmative defense”. Instead of claiming you did not assault anyone, you can claim that you had a reason to commit the assault, making it justified. A successful self-defense argument, as outlined in the stand-your-ground law stated above, will either win the civil case outright for the defendant, or reduce the damages they are required to pay.
Immunity means you cannot be sued in the first place. In a civil assault case, if a judge finds that the defendant is immune under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, the plaintiff will be forced to pay all of the expenses the defendant incurred defending the law suit, including attorney fees, court costs and lost income.
Recently, the Florida legislature strengthened a procedural rule relating to the stand-your-ground defense, requiring the prosecution to prove absence of self-defense at the defendant’s pretrial immunity hearing, and requiring such proof to be by clear and convincing evidence. “Clear and convincing”, in layman’s terms, means somewhere between a preponderance of the evidence (think 51% of the evidence) and beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard in most criminal cases and means a jury or judge can have no reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.
But this new rule was quickly shot down by a judge in Miami who said the legislature overstepped their authority, since under a Florida Supreme Court ruling, only the courts have the power to change such procedural rules. The ruling will likely be appealed by the state.
It is a confusing law that is liable to change even more in the future, so if you have been involved in a stand-your-ground incident, it is in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney at Jax Legal by calling 904-249-9030 for a free consultation.