Self-Defense Immunity Under the Stand Your Ground Law Must Be Properly Raised

People always ask about self-defense because everyone can envision a scenario where they’d need to defend themselves. Until October 1, 2005, people in Florida had a duty to retreat; however, the law allows you to Stand Your Ground. The Stand Your Ground law created confusion because it didn’t address the new procedure. The courts sorted things out as defendants filed motions to dismiss. State v. Moore shines light on one of the procedural issues that the statute considered.

The State of Florida charges Gary Moore with Second Degree Murder alleging that he shot and killed Jonathan Stevens. Moore files a motion to dismiss asserting statutory immunity because he acted in self-defense. The State of Florida responds with a motion to strike, claiming the defense motion fails to meet its initial burden. The trial judge denies the motion to strike, holds an evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss and grants the motion to dismiss. The State of Florida appeals the ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.

Stand Your Ground Law

The Appellate Court recounts the Stand Your Ground procedure. First, a defendant must allege sufficient facts to raise a prima facie claim of self-defense immunity pursuant to Florida Statute 776.032(4). Then, at an evidentiary hearing, the burden shifts to the State of Florida to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant lacks immunity.

To determine a prima facie claim of statutory immunity, the Appellate Court looks to the statute. A defendant must show that the elements of the justifiable use of force are met. “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.” It also considers the Justifiable Use of Force Jury Instruction, which restates the statute.

Stand Your Ground Law Applied to Moore’s Motion

The Court shifts focus to Moore’s motion. The motion doesn’t raise self-defense. The motion doesn’t explain the conflict or justify the shooting. Instead, it attacks the uncertainty in the criminal investigation and questions the prosecution’s evidence against him. It skips to the second stage in the process without addressing the first stage.

Based on the motion alone, the Appellate Court rules against Moore. It finds his motion legally insufficient. The motion ignores the requirement to raise the justifiable use of force. He can’t just attack the evidence against him. The trial court shouldn’t have held a hearing on a legally insufficient motion. Therefore, the Appellate Court reverses the order granting the motion to dismiss.

Read the Moore opinion here!

Talk to An Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!

Talk to Jared at Brown Legal PLLC about the proper way to raise Self Defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law! It’s vital when charged with Murder, Firearm Offenses and Assaults and Batteries of every variety. Jared is an Ivy League educated former prosecutor with over 15 years experience! The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Jared has represented people as far away as Pensacola and as far south as Key West. Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.

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