Woman defending herself from thief using pepper spray

The Rules on Self Defense in Florida

Venessa Bornost, P.A. May 1, 2023

Under Florida law, you're allowed to protect yourself, your property, or another person from an attacker or a dangerous situation using the necessary level of force. However, there are certain state statutes and rules addressing the use of force or deadly force in self-defense or defense of property. Depending on the surrounding circumstance, you may be arrested and charged for using force or for your otherwise violent acts – even when you only acted in self-defense. 

At Venessa Bornost, P.A., I give clear legal direction and skilled representation to clients facing criminal charges for acting in self-defense. As a trusted Florida criminal justice attorney, I can inform you about the rules on self-defense and determine whether you can use this as a legal defense to fight your charges. My firm proudly serves clients across Dunedin, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County, Florida. 

What Is Self-Defense?

Self-defense involves using force, violence, or deadly force to protect yourself, your property, or someone else from potential harm or a dangerous situation. In a criminal case that involves allegations of unlawful violent acts, such as assault or battery, the defendant may be eligible to use self-defense as a legal defense. 

According to Florida law – Florida Statutes Section 776.012(1) – "A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other's imminent use of unlawful force." 

Cases to Use Self-Defense

In the state of Florida, self-defense may be used as an affirmative legal defense in different criminal cases involving unlawful violent actions, such as, but not limited to: 

  • assault 

  • domestic violence 

  • battery 

  • manslaughter 

  • homicide 

  • assault with a deadly weapon 

Based on the surrounding facts of your case, you may be entitled to establish self-defense as a legal defense to help fight the criminal charges against you. 

When Can It Be Used as a Legal Defense?

Furthermore, in order to successfully prove self-defense in a Florida criminal case, the alleged offender must show the following: 

  • they reasonably believed that they or another person was in imminent danger of harm or violence 

  • they reasonably believed that a threat existed 

  • the defendant only used the reasonable level of force necessary 

  • the other party was the initial aggressor 

If you or someone close to you has recently been arrested or indicted with a criminal charge for using force against another party but was only acting in self-defense, you need to get in touch with a strategic criminal defense lawyer right away. 

Duty to Retreat in Florida

When facing potential harm, violence, danger, or death, your instincts may prompt you to fight back, stand your ground, or retreat to safety. However, there is no duty to retreat in Florida. Depending on the situation, you are allowed to stand your ground, fight the attacker, and protect or defend yourself against potential harm or dangerous situation. 

Castle Doctrine Law in Florida

Furthermore, under Florida's Castle Doctrine law – also known as Protect Your Castle law – when your home is under attack, you are allowed to protect yourself, your family, and the property using force or deadly force – as required. 

Essentially, the Castle Doctrine law does not require you to retreat from a dangerous situation that occurs in your home or office. However, if a violent situation occurs in a public place, you are required to retreat to a place of safety. The Castle Doctrine law in Florida has now been replaced with the "Stand Your Ground" law since 2005. 

Stand Your Ground Law in Florida

According to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, a person who uses or threatens to use force or deadly force when facing potential danger, great bodily harm, or imminent death does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force or deadly force. Hence, you may use force or deadly force to defend or protect yourself from a violent situation in your home, workplace, or vehicle. 

Personal & Professional Legal Advocacy

Facing criminal charges for defending or protecting yourself or your property from a dangerous situation can be a scary experience. Nonetheless, you may be eligible to justify your actions by establishing a valid claim of self-defense. At Venessa Bornost, P.A., I have the knowledge and expertise to represent and defend individuals wrongfully arrested for violent acts in their criminal cases. 

As your lawyer, I can tell you about how Florida's rules on self-defense and Stand-Your-Ground apply to your case and help strategize your best defenses. I have everything necessary to fight for your rights while keeping your best interests in mind.  

Are you under criminal investigation for acting in defense of yourself or others? Contact me at Venessa Bornost, P.A., today for a case evaluation with a skilled criminal defense lawyer. I possess the reliable representation and trusted advocacy you need in your case. My firm proudly serves clients across Dunedin, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County, Florida.