Florida Appeals Court Rules on Statutory Prohibition of “Engaging in a Criminal Activity” under State’s Stand Your Ground Law

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law gives criminal defendants immunity against prosecution if they meet the following three elements:  the use of deadly force was (i) reasonable because deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the defendant or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony; (ii) used while the defendant was not engaged in a criminal activity; and (iii) used in a place where the defendant had a right to be. A recent Florida gun crime case, decided on November 15, 2017, considered the second element, whether the defendant was engaged in a criminal activity at the time the alleged self-defense occurred.

The defendant testified at an evidentiary motion to dismiss the second-degree murder charges against him that on the day of the shooting, he took a few hundred dollars out of his pocket when the eventual victim told him that she shouldn’t walk around with that amount of cash because of the reputation of the neighborhood. The defendant informed the eventual victim that he had “protection.” The defendant then continued talking with his friends. The defendant was then attacked from behind and hit on the left side of his face and knocked up against a car. The eventual victim reached for the defendant’s side and made contact with the defendant’s gun. The defendant then grabbed his gun and pulled the trigger. The victim did not fall to the ground. They both ran in different directions, although the victim eventually died of his gunshot wounds.

The defendant presented evidence at a pre-trial hearing that corroborated his account of the event. The trial court ruled that as a result, the defendant was entitled to immunity and dismissed the second-degree murder charge against the defendant. The State appealed because the court did not discuss in the written order whether the defendant was engaged in a criminal activity at the time of the shooting, even though both the prosecutor and defense counsel argued this issue at the hearing.

The appeals court reversed the trial court because there was a dispute as to whether the defendant was engaged in a criminal activity. The State’s position was that the Stand Your Ground defense was not available to the defendant because he was committing either a felony (carrying a concealed firearm without a license) or a misdemeanor (open carry of a firearm). The defendant disputed that those two crimes would be considered “criminal activity” under the Stand Your Ground statute. The appeals court declined to rule on that issue but instead remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on whether the defendant was engaged in a “criminal activity.”

It’s absolutely essential to choose the right lawyer if you or a loved one is trying to defend against gun charges. Will Hanlon has an impressive record of expertly handling gun defense cases in Tampa. It’s not the time to take any unnecessary risks with your future. If you would like to discuss your case or charges against you, call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

New Stand-Your-Ground Law at Issue in Tampa Murder Trial, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 7, 2017

Tampa Woman Guns Down Teen who Carjacked her Son, Raising Stand Your Ground and Felony Murder Issues, Tampa Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 17, 2017