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Things Juries Consider In Self-Defense Cases

Self-defense in the State of Florida is a recognized defense to a charge of a violent crime. Thankfully, Florida's laws regarding self-defense heavily favor those who lawfully execute it.

Florida's Stand Your Ground law provides that you may use lethal force if you believe it is necessary to save your life or the life of another, or to protect you or another from serious injury.

If you use lethal or non-lethal force against a person who is inside of your home and has no right to be there, you cannot be prosecuted or sued.

However, many self-defense cases contain factual disputes. That is, it may not be so clear in the early stages of the case regarding who was in the right, and who was in the wrong. The accused may claim self-defense but the alleged victim may claim that he or she was attacked. If a factual dispute such as that is present, then the case will move forward. It may be disposed of by a motion to dismiss (under Stand Your Ground), or at trial.

At trial, a jury will get to hear evidence supporting your claim of self-defense, should you decide to put on a case. Remember - it's the state's burden of proof. You do not have to lift a finger at trial. However, personally speaking, I find that if you have a good self-defense case, you should present evidence, which can be in the form of exhibits or even just the testimony of eyewitnesses.

At trial, a few things will be relevant (other than the facts of the incident). For one, if the alleged victim has a reputation as a violent person, and that reputation was known to the accused, that is relevant because it supports the fact that the accused was trying to defend him or herself against a person they knew to be violent.

Also, the jury will get to consider the physical abilities, advantages, and disadvantages of both the accused and the alleged victim. If the accused is small and the alleged victim is physically large, this fact is very important as a large person can presumably do significant damage to a smaller person. A small person may need to resort to the use of a weapon to fend off an unarmed attack by a larger opponent.

Both the reputation of the victim and the physical differences of victim and defendant are included in the jury instructions.