Florida Law Allows Self Defense Against “Retreating” Criminals

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on August 22, 2009 at 12:01 am
LearnAboutGuns.com > Gun Related News > Florida Law Allows Self Defense Against “Retreating” Criminals

A Florida court of appeal recently ruled that Florida’s “stand your ground” law allows a crime victim to use deadly force against an attacker who is “retreating.”  Allow me to explain why this ruling is ever so correct and reasonable:

Florida passed its “stand your ground” law out of recognition that the old law favored criminals at the expense of their innocent victims.  When the law may impose a severe penalty upon crime victims who defend themselves against criminals, those victims will hesitate to act.  Those crime victims who thoroughly know the law will stop to double and triple check whether their self defense action will perfectly meet the law’s intricate requirements for justified self defense.  Those crime victims that don’t know the law will also hesitate, often not shooting when they should, out of fear that they might end up prosecuted for murder.  That hesitation gives the ruthless criminal, who doesn’t care about the law or the victim’s life, an opportunity to harm that victim.  Florida’s “stand your ground” law is a solution to this problem: it eliminates many of the complexities that plague self defense laws in other states, allowing a law abiding person who is doing nothing wrong to know that they won’t be criminally or civilly liable for saving their own life from a violent criminal.

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As far as allowing the shooting of “retreating” criminals, those opposed to self defense will portray this as an invitation for vigilantism and wild west shootouts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Instead, the purpose of extending this self defense right to “retreating” criminals is to ensure effective self defense, and to favor the crime victim over the aggressor.  Doing otherwise would undermine the purpose the “stand your ground” law.  I believe that concrete examples will help illustrate this point:

  • Firstly, criminals may act as thought they are “retreating,” only to turn around seconds later and continue their attack.  For example, an armed robber acted as though he was leaving his victim’s barber shop, only to turn around seconds later and come back to attack again.  In another example, 3 armed criminals ran away when a woman’s home security system went off, but one of the criminals circled back a few moments later and began to advance on the woman again.  Criminals, by their very nature, are dishonest.  They are more than willing to fake retreat or surrender in order to lull the victim into a false sense of security – then attack that victim again.  It just doesn’t make sense to demand that a crime victim risk their life and trust the criminal’s supposed “retreat.”
  • Even if the criminal does “retreat” many feet from the victim, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the victim is no longer in danger from that criminal.  Criminals are quite willing to violate gun control laws, and as a result are often armed.  Those criminals are quite capable of harming a victim at a distance.  For example, a man returned home after work and was ambushed by a home invading criminal.  The man took off running for his neighbor’s house, hoping to find help.  The criminal shot that man in the back.  In another example, five friends were standing on the street on New York, when a criminal approached and announced that he intended to rob them.  One of the friends took off running, only to be shot in the back by the criminal.  The fact is that criminals at a distance can continue to pose a deadly threat.  It is not reasonable to expect a law abiding citizen to endanger their life by ceasing to defend themselves when the criminal beings to “retreat.”
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It is possible that allowing a “retreating” criminal to be shot in self defense will result in more dead or injured criminals who really were trying to retreat.  As someone who doesn’t believe in capital punishment, I find the death of any human to be regrettable and tragic.  However, every law abiding citizens has the basic human right to defend themselves – and it would be morally wrong to impair that right to benefit violent criminals.  At the end of the day, if either the violent criminal or the innocent victim must suffer death or bodily harm, it is far better that the harm befall the violent criminal.

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  • http://www.besafeorlando.info safetyawareness101

    All of these crazy laws only confuse things I believe that if someone has entered my house they will die.

  • Anders

    A friend said that they have these crazy laws in Florida and he hoped that we never get that kind of laws in California.

    I asked her what she would do if a burglar came to her house. What if she was alone with her 4 month old baby. She said she would let them take every thing they wanted, TV, DVD, computer, money, every thing. That's fine, I said, when he has taken every thing, he turns to you, points at your baby, "give me the baby". Then you would give it to him, right?

    Or would you fight? Scream, kick, scratch, punch? I think that the only reason you did not shoot the bastard would be that you did not have a gun. Now lets say you do have a gun and you shoot him. In California, depending on who investigates, you might go to prison for defending your child and your self.

    Now your child is left without a mother.

    Why might you end up in prison? The jury might find that you should have waited a few more seconds before shooting, or they might find that you should have ran into the bathroom and locked the door, or any other scenario that some lawyer, in retrospect, thinks up.

    So if we get these crazy laws in California, you could defend your child, without fear of the law. That would be a good thing for you and your child.

  • Bob

    As a retired law enforcement Lieutenant, a lifetime member of the NRA, as a state licensed instructor at the police academies in Palm Beach and Broward County as well as an instructor for armed and unarmed security officers in Florida, I applaud this decision. However, I also caution those eager to pull a trigger to think twice; unless you or someone else are in fear of their lives. Remember that, at least in Florida, a grand jury will take hours examining your actions that you only had seconds to decide on and that even if you are found to be justified in a criminal court you may loose your lifelong savings in a civil one. We teach now, as I was taught in the 1970's police academy, even though police have the right to shoot a fleeing suspect; don't. That is unless this person just committed a violent felony. I fully agree, if someone were to break into my home which would pose a threat to me, I would use deadly force without hesitation however, I would carefully think about shooting someone in the back as they fled my property unless of couse they committed a violent felony there. I've worked too hard in my life to give it all up to a criminal or his family.

  • RICK

    AS a former law officer in the state of florida,I too would apprehensive of firing a fleeing or retreating attacker. being in the right is not always to your advantage fiscally or other wise.

  • Bob

    This article – allowing the shooting of “retreating” criminals sounds like an opinion – not fact. Why links or footnotes to the actual text of the law are not supplied are a cause for concern. This is just like saying "A recent goverment study found that…" Without the actual source – i.e. the goverment survey is supplied, the statement is very suspect. No one should listen to the advice given here or take it as fact without checking for themselves – even if you agree with it.

    • https://www.learnaboutguns.com The LearnAboutGuns.c


      As in all of my article that discuss some event from the news, I provided a link to the news story reporting the case. You're welcome to click that link (in the very first paragraph) to learn more.

      If the goal of this article were to explain the law and give legal advice, then I would likely provide more detailed information as to the court ruling. However, as the disclaimer throughout this site clearly note, nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice – and this article is no exception. Instead, the purpose of this article is to explain *why* I agree with the court ruling, and more generally, why a crime victim's safety should never be subordinate to the safety of a violent criminal.