Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Does Not Protect You Against Civil Lawsuits
The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a person who is declared immune from criminal prosecution under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law can still face a civil action.
What is the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law?
The controversial law known as the “Stand Your Ground” law was enacted in 2005 and is covered under Florida Statutes Sections 776.012 and 776.013. This piece of legislation provides for the justification in the use of deadly force and says you do not have to retreat if either:
- You reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony;
- You act under and according to the elements outlined in Section 776.013, which pertains to the use of force involving a home or vehicle invasion.
The “Stand Your Ground” law did not create new legislation, as the principle of the use of deadly force as self-defense if a person believes such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm has existed for over a century. It was established back in 1892 with the Lovett v. State, 30 Fla. 142, 163-164.
Current Supreme Court Decision on Civil Lawsuits
The current case revolves around a 2008 Tampa bar fight involving two men, Ketan Kumar and Nirav Patel. Court documents indicate that Kumar attacked Patel without provocation and Patel defended himself by striking Kumar with a glass, which ultimately left him blind in one eye. Patel was charged with battery, but claimed self-defense under the “Stand Your Ground” law. The Hillsborough County judge granted immunity.
Kumar then filed a civil suit for battery and negligence. Patel petitioned the appeals court, arguing immunity from the criminal prosecution extended to civil lawsuits, to which the appeals court affirmed. However, this decision was in conflict with another appellate ruling.
The Supreme Court explained their decision by noting that the law “is silent as to the procedure to be used for determining immunity.” The statute does have separate language dealing with attorney fees for civil and criminal cases, which the justices interpreted to mean that the law required two separate immunity hearings.
An earlier amendment to the “Stand Your Ground” law in 2017 created different requirements for burden of proof in civil and criminal immunity, another sign that these were meant to be separate hearings.
Controversy Surrounding the Law
The law was passed in 2005, giving people the right to “shoot first” if they believed their lives were in danger; however, it really garnered national attention in 2012 during George Zimmerman’s case. Zimmerman was on trial for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. Zimmerman was acquitted, which caused significant outrage as the shooting was seen as racially motivated.
When to Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you, or a loved one, have been arrested or charged with a crime where you were acting in self-defense and you believe should be covered under the “Stand Your Ground” law, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein to schedule an initial consultation.