Is Self-Defense Available In Domestic Violence Cases?
An Orlando man wants the judge to throw out a domestic battery charge based on the state’s “stand your ground” law.
The 43-year-old man claims that he only used force against his then-wife because he reasonably feared for his life. According to police and prosecutors, the couple had an altercation in their car in September 2015. The man claims that his then-wife flailed her arms at him, causing him to swerve into oncoming traffic and risking the possibility of a serious crash. So, he pushed her arms away. The woman claims that her then-husband was the sole aggressor, as he used his left hand to dangle her phone out the window while threatening to drop it and his right hand to hit her while steering with his knees. The man’s attorney says that the stand-your-ground law applies to his use of force because “[t]he defendant was in danger of being in a head-on collision.”
In an earlier incident, the man claims that he accidentally grabbed his then-wife during a separate argument that took place in their home.
The stand-your-ground law is an example of a substantive defense, because it excuses otherwise criminal behavior based on the facts. Section 776.013 is commonly associated with violent gun crimes, like home invasions and fights between individuals that involve deadly force, but the defense also applies to vehicles. The above story also involves Section 776.012, which authorizes a person “to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”
Under Section 776.013, the person does not have a duty to retreat prior to using deadly force, so assuming the jury accepts the version of events the defendant put forward in the above story, the defense probably applies and he should be found not guilty on that count.
Other defenses involve events that took place before or after the arrest. These defenses include:
- Lack of Reasonable Suspicion: Before officers can stop individuals on the street or pull over vehicles on the highway, their actions must generally be premised on specific, articulable facts that indicate possible criminal activity. DUI checkpoints are one of the major exceptions.
- No Probable Cause: Officers must have even more facts to arrest people. These facts must exist before the arrest, so an officer cannot say he had a “hunch” and offer later-seized weapons or drugs as proof of probable cause.
Search warrants must also be based on probable cause, in addition to an officer’s sworn testimony that there is illegal activity at a certain location.
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