Florida Court Explains Self-Defense in the Context of Forcible Felonies

Under Florida law, the use of force is acceptable in certain circumstances. As such, a person charged with a crime involving the use of deadly force may be able to argue that the actions out of which the charges arose were justifiable self-defense. Self-defense is not justified if a person was committing or trying to commit a forceable felony when the act occurred, however. In a recent Florida case, a court issued an opinion discussing what forcible felonies preclude a defendant from arguing he acted in self-defense, in a case where the court ultimately affirmed the defendant’s convictions for third-degree murder and other offenses. If you are accused of a violent crime, it is smart to speak to a skilled Clearwater violent crime defense lawyer regarding your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the state charged the defendant with numerous offenses after he shot a man who threatened his friend on social media. The man ultimately died as a result of his wounds. Following a trial, a jury convicted the defendant of third-degree murder with a weapon, grand theft of an automobile, and two counts of false imprisonment with a gun. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that the trial court gave an improper jury instruction regarding the justifiable use of force and that the homicide was self-defense. The appellate court rejected his assertions and affirmed his convictions.

Self-Defense in the Context of Forcible Felonies

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court made a fundamental error by instructing the jury regarding the justifiable use of deadly force where there was no independent forcible felony and that in doing so, the trial court prevented the jury from accepting his self-defense argument. The forcible felony instruction provided stated that deadly use of force is not permitted if the defendant was attempting to commit or committing numerous crimes, including third-degree murder.

It is an error to provide a jury with a forcible felony instruction if the defendant is not charged with a forcible felony outside of the actions taken in self-defense. As such, the defendant claimed that the trial court erred in instructing the jury as it did because he was not charged with felonies other than the ones listed in the instruction. The appellate court found, however, that no fundamental error was committed. Specifically, the error did not so greatly impact the trial that a guilty verdict could not have been reached without the assistance of the error. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

Meet with an Experienced Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction for a violent offense can result in a lengthy jail sentence, but there are often defenses a defendant can assert to avoid a guilty verdict. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can assess the facts of your case and advise you of your options for seeking a favorable outcome. You can reach Hanlon Law through the online form or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a conference.

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