CASTLE DOCTRINE: “Know Your Rights” with Attorney Jeff Vastola:
For those of you that don’t already know, the castle doctrine is a legal term pertaining to self defense, and the protection of others, when you are in your home or any other place where you have the right to be.
The castle doctrine started out as a creature of common law. Common law is the body of law created by consistent rulings by the courts. However, the Florida legislature codified aspects of the castle doctrine by enacting Florida Statute 776.013 in 2005. Even though the statute is short, the substance does not allow me to restate everything in two minutes. Essentially, the castle doctrine requires that you have a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm to you or another person in order to use force against the aggressor intended to cause death or great bodily harm.
The Statute sets forth circumstances when this reasonable fear is presumed, theoretically making it very difficult if not impossible for the State of Florida to convict you for using such force. Bear in mind, however, that there are situations where your reasonable fear will not be presumed and your freedom could come down to proving that you had a reasonable fear in order to use deadly force. The Statute does provide that a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s residence or vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
All of that being said, you must remember that the State has the right to prosecute crimes. Your use of force could be construed as a crime if you do not follow the letter of this law. Be careful before deciding to use deadly force and make absolutely certain that there are not better alternatives. I’m attorney Jeff Vastola and now you know your rights.