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“What is the 21-Foot Rule? When Can You Use the Stand Your Ground Law as Defense in a Criminal Defense Case?”
What is the “Stand Your Ground” Law?
To summarize, prior to “Stand Your Ground”, a person could use only non-deadly force to defend against the imminent use of unlawful non-deadly force. Deadly force was authorized only to defend against imminent deadly force or great bodily harm, or the commission of a forcible felony. Unless you were at home or work, you had a duty to retreat.
Now,since passing the “Stand Your Ground” Law, the Florida Legislature expressed its intent that no person should be “required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack.” The “Stand Your Ground” Law effectively expands the “Castle Doctrine” by expanding what is meant by the concept of one’s “castle” to include any place where a person is lawfully entitled to be.
Regardless of whether a person is in actual fear while protecting their home or vehicle from forcible entry, Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law presumes you to have a reasonable fear in such circumstances unless the person committing the forcible entry proves otherwise.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law now provides immunity from prosecution, as opposed to an affirmative defense that you would need to assert in Trial (after being arrested and charged by the State of Florida).
Accordingly, Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law applies to any type of force and any type of weapon, and the nuances of this statute should clearly illustrate the importance of having a skilled criminal trial attorney by your side. If you or a loved one is being investigated for, or has been charged with, a Crime of Violence and/or a Firearms and Weapons Offense, contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC for an private case evaluation, free of charge. Call (727) 531-2926 anytime, 24-7!
On July 19, 2018, at about 3:30 p.m., Markeis McGlockton stopped by the Circle A Food Store at 1201 Sunset Point Road near Clearwater. His girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, parked in a handicap-reserved spot outside the convenience store and waited in the car with two of the couple’s children — 4 months and 3 at the time. McGlockton, 28, went into the store with their third child, Markeis Jr., who was 5.
Michael Drejka, then 47, pulled into the parking lot and approached Jacobs, who was 25. He asked Jacobs why she had parked in the spot if she didn’t have a handicap-designated plate or placard. The two started arguing. It escalated to the point that others in the parking lot started paying attention.
One of the witnesses entered the store and reported what was going on. McGlockton stepped back outside, walked up to Drejka, and shoved him to the ground. Drejka pulled out a .40-caliber Glock handgun and shot McGlockton once in the chest. McGlockton was taken to Morton Plant Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after. The entire incident was caught on the store’s surveillance video.
The next day, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced in a news conference that he would not arrest Drejka, saying the shooting fell “within the bookends of ‘stand your ground’ and within the bookends of force being justified.” He referred the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office.
The announcement sparked a nationwide debate around Florida’s stand-your-ground self-defense law and laid the pressure on State Attorney Bernie McCabe. It also touched off a conversation about racial disparities in the criminal justice system. McGlockton was black and unarmed. Drejka is white.
Community groups organized vigils and protests over “Stand Your Ground”. Democratic candidates for governor cycled in and out of Clearwater, using the incident to showcase what they called an unjust law. Five members of Congress, including Rep. Charlie Crist and former Sen. Bill Nelson, called for the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation. Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who represented the parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, signed on to represent Jacobs. Martin was fatally shot in 2012 by a Sanford community watch member.
On Aug. 13, 2018, McCabe announced he was charging Drejka with manslaughter.
Just over one year later, on Aug. 23, 2019, a six-member jury convicted Drejka of the charge after 6½ hours of deliberation.
Remember, all Criminal Charges are serious and you need a skilled Criminal Defense Attorney on your side. Call us for a free evaluation at (727) 531-2926 anytime, 24-7!
- Eliminating the general of “duty of retreat” imposed at common law;
- Presuming legal justification for the use of force in a person’s dwelling, residence, or vehicle; and
- Offering immunity from prosecution for individuals who resort to force within the parameters of the statute.
In its purest form, the statute provides that a person is justified in the use of deadly force and has no duty to retreat if either:
- the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself, or another, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
- the person acts under and according to the circumstances set forth in Section 776.013 (presuming a reasonable belief as to the necessity of force in the context of ‘dwellings,’ residences, or vehicles).
Floridians have been able to use deadly force in self-defense if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm for well over a century. However, prior to the enactment of ‘Stand Your Ground,’ a person could not use deadly force in self-defense without first using every reasonable means within his or her power to retreat from the danger.
A combatant had to “retreat to the wall” before using deadly force. This former “duty to retreat” derived from the common law, rather than from statute. Hedges v. State, 172 So. 2d 824, 827 (Fla. 1965).
Florida appellate courts recognized one major exception to the ‘duty of retreat’ rule. Known as the “Castle Doctrine,” this exception provided that, where the user of force was not the aggressor and was assaulted in his or her home, the user had no obligation to retreat.
Courts later applied the Castle Doctrine to include places of business, but declined to do so in cases involving co-occupants of dwellings and co-workers at a place of business. State v. Smith, 376 So. 2d 261 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979) (applying the Castle Doctrine to places of business). While eliminating the obligation of retreat in a person’s home or place of business, the ‘Castle Doctrine’ nonetheless required the lawful owner or occupant to reasonably believe that force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm.
A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be (emphasis added).A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.
At its core, the elimination of the former “duty to retreat” represents an expansion of the “Castle Doctrine” beyond the home to all places where a person is legally present.
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