On the broad spectrum of criminal offenses, violent charges are among the most severe. Violent criminal offenses carry the most social stigma and often the harshest penalties of any criminal allegations. Even if the state offers a plea deal involving a lesser offense, many background checks will report the original charges. The only way to truly avoid possible penalties and criminal record in the face of such charges is to avoid a conviction.
One of the more common responses to violent criminal charges is to assert that one acted in self-defense. When are self-defense claims permissible in the Florida criminal courts?
There must be a credible threat
For someone to raise a claim that they acted in self-defense while engaging in interpersonal violence, they generally need to have believed that they themselves or another person or immediate risk of unlawful force. When someone believes that another party intends to harm them or another individual because of their words or actions, that person might have a lawful defense if they face charges after intervening.
When someone believes another person is about to engage in an act of violence, such as when they pull their arm back as if to throw a punch, the party who believes there is a threat can use physical force to defend themselves or others. If someone’s act of self-defense involved the threat or use of deadly force, they would need to have believed that there was a risk of great bodily harm or the immediate threat of a forcible felony.
Florida law does not impose an obligation to attempt to retreat before using force if it is justifiable for someone to physically defend themselves. However, people generally need to show that there was reason to believe their safety was at risk and that they didn’t instigate the situation.
Self-defense claims aren’t always the best option, but they can help people in certain situations. Mounting a thoughtful and informed defense when facing violent criminal charges in Florida can significantly reduce the long-term consequences someone may suffer because of a recent arrest.