Florida courts have once again decided to review the state’s Stand Your Ground law. Since this statute was cited in the high profile criminal case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, proponents and critics of this law and have come out in full force to support or challenge its existence. Of considerable note is one small term in the Stand Your Ground law. Depending on the outcome of a few criminal cases, the phrase “unlawful activity” may be more stringently defined for legal purposes.
Defining Stand Your Ground
Stand Your Ground was enacted 10 years ago. It was meant to protect Floridians who used deadly force and weapons as self-defense in the event of a life-threatening assault. The drafting of the original law has left a number of scenarios open to debate, and the courts have been faced with numerous cases that challenged when the Stand Your Ground law can apply.
Specifically, a high profile case of a convicted felon possessing an illegal gun brought much attention. Though the man claimed he used the gun as protection, the Court decided that Stand Your Ground did not apply to those engaged in unlawful activity. This would seem to exclude anyone who is in the process of breaking the law to use the statute in their defense. However, two other cases conflicted with this finding, suggesting that a criminal may stand their ground when their life is in danger.
Why does language matter?
Key to Stand Your Ground is the definition of unlawful activity and how it is applied in a criminal context. Unlawful activity challenges a civilian’s knowledge of the law and assumes that everyone is aware of the details of what they should and should not do. In a strict definition, many people seek to use Stand Your Ground laws may be unable to do so. For example, someone using a weapon against a home intruder when they do not have the proper license for the gun would not be protected under such a strict definition. Does the presence of an unregistered firearm negate the need to protect the home and family from harm?
With all this controversy over the usage of the law and what scenarios apply, Florida courts have not committed to correcting the language or the function of Stand Your Ground. Since there has been no overall definition or guidelines to set a precedent, courts across the state are using their own judgment concerning its use. The Fourth District took this to mean that ambiguity in the case must be strictly construed in favor of the accused.
Stand Your Ground is a complicated law. If you are facing charges and wonder if Stand Your Ground applies in your case, consult with a criminal defense attorney at Herman Law, P.A. With over 150 jury trials handled, our firm is familiar with how to handle cases just like yours.