Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida: Understanding Self-Defense

What is Self Defense in Tampa?

Self-defense is a legal defense against a violent crime. It justifies a defendant's use of force against another person, on the basis they were protecting themselves against an imminent threat of harm or death.

The defense attorneys at Rodriguez and Williamson, PLLC understand how challenging it is to be facing criminal charges in Florida. Is self-defense the appropriate defense for you? The specific requirements and restrictions to apply self-defense in criminal cases can vary between states. Some common concepts are explained below, and by calling us at 813-320-7500, we can explain more during a Free. 

Imminent Threat

Self-defense usually requires the defendant to be in fear of immediate harm. This harm could be a verbal or actual threat of physical harm, although offensive words alone are not enough. Once the threat ends, the harm is no longer imminent and the defendant cannot rely on self-defense. 

Reasonable Fear of Harm

The defendant's fear of harm must also be reasonable. To assess this, the jury considers whether an ordinary and reasonable person in the same situation would have also believed there was an imminent threat of harm. If the answer is no, then self-defense does not apply, although imperfect self-defense may be available to the defendant. 

Proportionate Response

The defendant's use of force cannot be excessive, it must be proportionate to the threat. For example, if a victim raises their hand to slap a defendant and the defendant shoots at them, this would be an excessive response. For lethal force to be proportionate and therefore justified, the defendant usually must be in fear of death. 

Duty to Retreat

Some states require a defendant to attempt to escape the harm before resorting to force. Under the duty to retreat, a defendant must demonstrate they had no other choice but to use force.

Castle Doctrine

Some states have removed the duty to retreat where a defendant is facing an intruder in their home. The castle doctrine permits a defendant to use potentially lethal force in this situation without first attempting to escape the situation. 

Stand Your Ground

Other states have removed the duty to retreat requirement entirely. These states give the defendant the right to “stand their ground” and resort to using force if they're being threatened or assaulted, even in a public place, without first attempting to escape the harm. 

What Does Imperfect Self-Defense Look Like in Florida?

Imperfect self-defense usually applies where a defendant kills someone with an honest but unreasonable belief that there was an imminent danger at the time or that lethal force was necessary to prevent the harm. 

The defense of imperfect self-defense is a partial defense. If successful, it reduces the charge or lessens the penalty, it does not result in the defendant's acquittal. 

Imperfect self-defense is only available in some states.

Burden of Proof for Tampa Self-Defense Claim

Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means the defendant admits to doing the violent act but argues there was a legal justification for it. How, and to what level, a defendant needs to do this varies between states. 

In criminal cases, the onus is on the prosecution to prove each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In some states, if a defendant wants to argue self-defense, the burden of proof moves to them to prove self-defense by a “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. it is more likely true than not). 

Other states only require the defendant to raise self-defense and the burden then shifts back to the prosecution to prove the defendant did not act in self-defense.

By calling Rodriguez and Williamson, PLLC at 813-320-7500 and scheduling a Free, we can further explain self defense as an appropriate tool for defending against any possible criminal charges.

Where can I learn about self-defense in Tampa?

Self-defense is a legal defense against a violent crime. It justifies a defendant's use of force against another person on the assumption that they were protecting themselves from an imminent threat of harm or death from the other person.

The criminal defense attorneys at Rodriguez and Williamson, PLLC, are aware of the difficulties that come along with being accused of a crime in the state of Florida. Is it necessary for you to resort to self-defense in this situation? The conditions and limitations that must be met to invoke the right to self-defense in a court of law can differ from state to state. Below, we will discuss some basic ideas, and if you call us at 813-320-7500, we will be happy to clarify even more during a free consultation.

An Imminent Danger

In most cases, the person claiming self-defense must have a reasonable belief that they are in imminent danger. Offensive words are not sufficient to constitute this type of harm; rather, they must be accompanied by an actual or implied threat of physical harm. After the threat has been removed, there is no longer an immediate risk of harm, which means the defendant can no longer depend on self-defense.

Reasonable Concern about Potential Risk

The defendant's fear of harm also needs to be grounded in reality. To determine this, the jury considers the beliefs that an average and reasonable person would have held if they had been placed in the same circumstances as the defendant and given the same information. If the response is no, then the right to self-defense does not apply; nonetheless, the defendant may still be able to assert an incomplete claim of self-defense.

Proportionate Response

The defendant is not allowed to use excessive use of force. It must be in appropriate proportion to the danger. For instance, if a victim raises their hand to slap a defendant and the defendant responds by shooting at them, this would be considered an excessive response on the part of the criminal. In most cases, the defendant must be in reasonable danger of being killed for a fatal force response to be considered proportionate and permissible.

The Obligation to Withdraw

In some areas, a criminal defendant must attempt to flee the scene of the crime before they can use force. A defendant charged with violating the duty to retreat has the burden of proving that they were left with no other option but to use force.

The Castle Approach

When a defendant is confronted with an intruder in their house, the duty to retreat has been eliminated in some states. Because of the castle concept, a defendant is permitted to employ force that could potentially be fatal in this scenario even if they have not previously attempted to flee the circumstance.

Maintain your stance, please.

In several other states, the responsibility to withdraw has been eliminated as a necessity. In these states, the defendant has the legal right to "stand their ground" and defend themselves with physical force if they are being threatened or assaulted, even if the incident occurs in a public area, even if they have not made any attempts to flee the situation first.

What Does Inadequate Self-Defense Look Like in the State of Florida?

When a defendant murders someone with the sincere but irrational belief that there was an immediate risk at the moment or that deadly action was necessary to avoid harm, the defense of imperfect self-defense is typically applicable.

A defense of imperfect self-defense is a defense of self-defense in part. If it is successful, it results in a reduction of the charge or a lessening of the penalty; however, the defendant is not acquitted.

Only certain states allow for the practice of imperfect forms of self-defense.

The onus of Proof Lies on Tampa Bay Self-Defense Claim

Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This indicates that the defendant admits to doing the violent conduct but contends there was a legal justification in their defense. The manner in which and the extent to which a defendant is required to do this differ from state to state.

In legal proceedings involving criminal charges, the prosecution's responsibility is to prove each component of an offense beyond a shadow of a doubt. If a defendant wants to raise the defense of self-defense in some states, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant, and they must demonstrate self-defense by "a majority of the evidence" (i.e., it is more likely true than not).

In other places, the burden of proving that the defendant did not act in self-defense rests squarely on the shoulders of the prosecution; the defendant is required to assert that they were acting in self-defense.

We are able to provide additional information regarding the use of self-defense as a suitable method for defending against any possible criminal charges if you give Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, a call at the number 813-320-7500 and schedule a free consultation.

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  • fear of imminent death
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  • commission of a forcible
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  • death or great bodily
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  • affirmative defense