In Florida, there are several situations where a person is justified in using deadly or non-deadly force. Deadly force is defined as force likely to cause death or great bodily harm, which includes the actual firing of a gun. A person may use deadly force against another if it is reasonable to believe the deadly force will prevent death or serious bodily harm to themselves or another person.
In Florida, deadly force may be used to prevent the commission of a “forcible felony” which includes: treason, murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, home invasion, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated stalking, aircraft piracy, unlawful throwing, placing or discharging a destructive devise or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.
In Florida a legal presumption arises that a person acted reasonably in using deadly force in two situations. First, it is presumed that deadly force was reasonable if an individual was unlawfully or forcibly entering or entered into a home, business or occupied vehicle. Second, if an individual attempts or attempted to forcibly remove another against his or her will from a home, business or occupied vehicle, it is presumed to be reasonable to use deadly force. During these two situations, it must be reasonable to believe that a forcible and unlawful act was occurring or occurred.
This Florida legal presumption does not arise if:
- A person had a legal right to be in the home, business or vehicle and there is no injunction for protection due to domestic violence and no court order for no contact;
- The person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild and in the lawful custody of a guardian and the guardian is the person defensive force was used against;
- The person who uses defensive force is engaged in unlawful activity and the unlawful activity is occurring in the home, business or vehicle; and
- A law enforcement officer who has lawfully identified himself or is acting in accordance with the law.
In Florida if a person is attacked in any place where they had a right to be, they have no duty to retreat and have the right to stand their ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe that it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Next, there are several situations where a person is justified in using non-deadly force. First, a person may use non-deadly force if they reasonably believe that unlawful harm against themselves or another is imminent. Second, a person may use non-deadly force in the protection of property to prevent or terminate another’s trespass or other unlawful interference with real property (other than the home) or personal property. However, deadly force could be used when the crime against property is also classified as a “forcible felony,” such as arson, burglary or robbery.