Everyone has the right to protect themselves in certain situations. In Florida, you have the right to “stand your ground.” But what does that actually mean? Can you take any action necessary to protect yourself, or are there limitations to what qualifies as self-defense?

It’s important to note that the legal concepts surrounding self-defense differ from state to state. For example, Florida enacted the “stand your ground” law that allows you to defend yourself anywhere you are legally allowed to be, not just in your home.

What changed?

Before 2005, a person was legally allowed to stand their ground in their home under the castle doctrine. The doctrine essentially stated that, if there is no clear duty to retreat from your home, you may use force if you believe you are in imminent danger.

However, the “stand your ground” law addresses more than self-defense in your own home. Florida law says, “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

When is “stand your ground” likely not a reliable legal defense?

In general, if the threat has ended, the use of force may not be justified under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. For example, if someone assaults you and the assault ends, with the assailant having left the scene, the law does not permit you to then locate the assailant and use force in retaliation for the assault.

As with many criminal defense matters, the circumstances of violent crime charges are often complex. Careful analysis of the facts is necessary to determine the exact actions and motivations of the parties involved. For more on that, please see our overview of violent crime defense.