By: Steven Waldman, Member-Candidate, J.D. Candidate, May 2020, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Florida statute § 776.012(2) has been a subject of controversy since its enactment in 2005. The statute commonly referred to as the “Stand Your Ground” law, states that “[a] person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use 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. 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.”

This provision removes a person’s duty to retreat on the basis of an objectively reasonable belief that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. Furthermore, it grants a person full immunity with prejudice if the defendant successfully raises the defense at the pre-trial hearing. This statute effectively expands the Castle Doctrine to all places in the state in which the defendant has a lawful right to be. The policy behind the duty to retreat is that the use of force is not justified unless a person has made a reasonable effort to avoid the conflict. Florida’s Stand Your Ground law diminishes this duty which is intended to encourage the de-escalation of confrontations and serve as a deterrent against a shoot first mentality.

The duty to retreat does not bar a person from defending themselves, it simply compels a person to take other measures before resorting to violence. Stand Your Ground laws give individuals a false belief that brandishing a weapon in confrontations is acceptable and the law will protect them. The use of deadly force should be a last resort and the duty to retreat helps to achieve that purpose. Florida has a population of approximately 21,000,000 people and 1,923,313 of them are concealed weapon permit holders as of August 31, 2018.