Crimes of violence, such as assault, robbery, and murder, are serious crimes that carry heavy penalties if you are ultimately convicted. In some cases, however, you may be able to raise self-defense as a legal defense to your charge. Self-defense is a complete defense to a criminal charge and, if successful, can result in an acquittal or even a dismissal if the prosecutor determines there is overwhelming evidence that you were, in fact, acting in self-defense.
When you claim self-defense, you acknowledge that the violent act of which you accused occurred. You argue, however, that you were in using deadly or non-deadly force to repel another person’s imminent use of force. To successfully raise this defense, you must have used reasonable force, give the totality of all the circumstances in play.
If you are charged with a serious crime of violence, the St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers at Khonsari Law Group may meet with you and help you formulate a good legal defense to your charge. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may also determine your likelihood of success on self-defense—and raise it on your behalf with the prosecutor handling your case or at trial.
Self-Defense: The Reasonable Person Standard
In determining whether they can justify self-defense, the judge or jury will ask what a reasonable person in the defendant’s shoes would have done under the same or similar circumstances. Generally speaking, a criminal defendant cannot claim self-defense unless a hypothetical reasonable person in the same situation would believe that self-defense was necessary to avoid injury or imminent death.
Determining the reasonableness of a person’s belief is an issue that courts have consistently grappled with over the years. Generally speaking, a belief is reasonable if a person of ordinary knowledge and intelligence, knowing what the defendant knew and being in the same circumstances as the defendant, would have acted in the same way. The reasonableness of a defendant’s beliefs may also depend upon:
- All of the circumstances, including any past actions or conduct of the victim as it may have been known by or directed toward the defendant—including prior threats of violence
- The general reputation of the victim as it was known by the defendant at the time he or she claimed self-defense
In cases where a defendant raises self-defense, the state must overcome this assertion beyond a reasonable doubt—or beyond a doubt based upon ordinary reason and common sense.
Using Non-Deadly Force vs. Deadly Force
Under Florida law, a person may use non-deadly force against an aggressor if that force is reasonably necessary to defend against the aggressor’s imminent use of unlawful force.
Under the Florida statutes, deadly force is permissible under the following circumstances:
- The person has a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to prevent the commission of a felony, death, or great bodily harm to himself or someone else
- The person is resisting an attempted murder (or attempted commission of another felony) that takes place in the person’s dwelling house
Call a St. Petersburg, Florida, Criminal Defense Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation
The St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers at Khonsari Law Group can review your circumstances and determine if you may be able to introduce self-defense in your case. Do not hesitate to schedule a free consultation by calling our office at (727) 269-5300 or sending us an email through our online contact form.