Two Broward teenagers who have been charged as adults for the crime of second-degree murder will be raising a pre-trial Stand Your Ground claim, asking the court to grant them immunity and dismiss the case.
The two boys, ages 14 and 17, are charged with stabbing a homeless man to death with a pen after a fight over money. The incident allegedly occurred behind a store in Hallandale Beach.
Stand Your Ground is not a trial defense as many believe it to be. It is a claim that is asserted by the defense prior to trial. A Stand Your Ground hearing occurs in front of a judge, not a jury, where the judge must decide whether the Stand Your Ground law applies.
Stand Your Ground is the nickname of a Florida law that permits a person to use lethal force against an attacker in any place where the person has a legal right to be so long as the person believes it is necessary to use lethal force.
If a judge believes that the law applies, the person asserting the claim is granted immunity from prosecution.
Broward County has not been a great jurisdiction in which to ask for Stand Your Ground immunity. In fact, since 2005 - when the law first went into effect - only one Broward County Circuit Court judge has granted a Stand Your Ground motion.
Stand Your Ground is not the end-all, be-all of self-defense. If you lose your Stand Your Ground motion, you may still assert self-defense in your jury trial.
Florida’s self-defense jury instruction is very similar to the Stand Your Ground law when it comes to the use of lethal force.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Broward County and Miami-Dade County.