It may be easy for you and others in Fort Lauderdale to dismiss another’s claims for self-defense in response to accusations of criminal activity. Such skepticism likely comes from an assumption that your sound judgment helps you to avoid situations where you might feel compelled to act violently.

Yet self-defense is not an action; rather, it is reacting to the threats posed by another. Once you have encountered such a scenario, you quickly realize that the circumstances governing it are out of your control. Some may still say that so too are the consequences you may face if you allow those circumstances to prompt you into a confrontation. However, that may not be the case.

Defining a “duty to retreat”

The key to understanding self-defense laws is (at the same time) comprehending the idea of a duty to retreat. This is a legal concept that essentially follows that you must find a way to peacefully retreat from a situation when such a retreat is possible without resulting to violence. A successful claim of self-defense depends on when and where such a duty does not apply.

Per Section 776.013 of Florida’s state statutes, you have no duty to retreat from a situation where you reasonably believe that you must take action in order to prevent death or serious injury at the hands of another (or in order to prevent becoming the victim of a forcible felony). The law presumes that you have such a fear if another attempts to break into (or forcibly remove you from) your dwelling, residence or vehicle.

Exceptions to the reasonable presumption allowed by law

Of course, such a presumption may not exist if the person against whom you act also has a lawful right to be in any of those locations. The same is true if they are a public servant attempting to execute their duties.

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