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What is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law?

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Posted By SalterHealy | March 28 2022 | Florida News

In 2014, a man in a Pasco County movie theater shot and killed another man over an altercation that began with a cell phone. If this sounds familiar, that is because the case surrounding this shooting has finally reached a conclusion – more than eight years later.

What Happened at the Wesley Chapel Movie Theater?

On January 13, 2014, at The Grove 16’s Theater, retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves shot and killed Chad Oulson. At his trial, Reeves said that he told Oulson to put his cell phone away when the previews began showing at the start of the movie. Based on witness statements, Oulson told Reeves he was “texting his daughter’s babysitter” and that there was some foul language used. Those who testified said that Oulson did not seem mad. 

Witnesses say that Reeves stood up and left the theater, then returned a few minutes later. Then, according to testimony, Oulson stood up and asked Reeves something along the lines of “Are you trying to get me kicked out?”

Witnesses say that the next thing they remember is popcorn flying through the air along with a flash and a bang. They say that Nicole Oulson, who was sitting beside her husband, then began screaming and crying. Chad Oulson was heard saying, “I can’t believe he shot me.” Oulson died soon after.

In February of 2022, a jury in Florida acquitted Curtis Reeves of the shooting that took place eight years ago. Reeves successfully used Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Defense.”

What is the Stand Your Ground Law?

Going right to the source, we can see that the Stand Your Ground law is outlined in Sections 776.012 and 776.013 of Florida’s statutes. 

These statutes expanded on the scope of the self-defense claim that has been traditionally made available in criminal cases. The statutes expanded the self-defense claim by:

  • Eliminating a person’s “duty of retreat” requirements imposed through common law.
  • Automatically presuming legal justification for the use of force in an individual’s residence, dwelling, or vehicle. 
  • Offering immunity from prosecution for those who resort to deadly force within the parameters of the statutes.

Breaking this down into simpler terms, Florida statutes provide that a person will be justified and using deadly force and have no duty to retreat if either of the following circumstances exists:

  • The individual believed that deadly force was necessary in order to prevent aiming at death or great bodily harm either to themselves or another, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
  • The individual acted according to the circumstances set forth in Section 776.013, which means they believed that the deadly force was necessary in the context of their dwelling, residence, or vehicle.

The Florida standard ground law was enacted in 2005. Even though the principle of citizens being able to use deadly force and self-defense has been around in the state for more than 100 years, prior to the standard ground law, a person could not use deadly force without first using all available and reasonable means within their power to retreat from the danger. The Florida standard ground law takes away the duty to retreat.

Curtis Reeves applied the Stand Your Ground defense to his case, arguing that he did not have a duty to retreat and that he felt that his life was in danger due to Chad Oulson’s actions. In this particular case, the use of the Standard Ground Defense was successful.

If you have more questions about Florida laws, contact our team of experienced Florida attorneys.

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