Thursday, August 20, 2009

Florida court OKs "Stand-Your-Ground" law

From the Sunshine State [Hat tip: Reader Jim P.]:
Florida's "stand-your-ground" law allows the use of deadly force for self-protection even if an attacker or intruder is in retreat, an appellate court said Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued that explanation for last month releasing Jimmy Hair from jail, where he had spent two years awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge.

Hair, 28, was charged with fatally shooting Charles Harper, 26. Harper had forced his way into a car in which Hair was a passenger and then tussled with him. The car was parked outside a Tallahassee nightclub where Harper earlier had argued with the driver.

Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum, said no decision had yet been made on whether to ask for a rehearing or possibly appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. She declined further comment.

A trial judge had refused to grant Hair "stand-your-ground" immunity due to conflicting testimony on whether Harper was being pulled out of the car by a friend when he was shot, but the appellate court said that didn't matter.

"The statute makes no exception from immunity when the victim is in retreat," the panel wrote in an unsigned, unanimous opinion.

The ruling appears to conflict with a 2nd District Court of Appeal decision in 2007 that denied immunity to Valrico resident David Heckman in case that also began with an argument. Heckman had been charged with aggravated battery for allegedly shooting Robert Carroll after Carroll left the garage attached to Heckman's home. ...

Article here. Note that, according to the article, there appears to exist a conflict between appellate districts, so the Florida Supreme Court might decide to weigh in on the issue if the state decides to seek further review.

The article also mentions that the shooter claimed that his gun went off accidentally:
Hair, who had a concealed weapons permit, claimed the gun went off accidentally when he tried to hit Harper with it. The appellate court also found the trial judge erred by finding the law didn't apply because the gun had gone off accidentally. [emphasis added]

Note that self-defense is an intentional act. Thus, you generally can't argue that your accidental shooting was self-defense, because self-defense requires you to intentionally use the force you used. I suspect that the shooter spoke to the police and/or prosecutors without benefit of competent counsel, which is yet another reminder that you have the right to remain silent ... use it!

By all means, point out evidence (the location of your attacker's dropped weapon, for example) and/or witnesses that may help exonerate you and support your use of force, and obviously any need for medical attention for yourself and others -- often a good idea even if you don't believe you've been visibly injured, because you may not even realize you've been injured due to the effects of adrenaline, etc., or you may suffer from delayed effects, such as a heart attack. But you should probably avoid making any detailed statements at the scene. And certainly no incriminating statements without prior consultation with your attorney, and with your attorney present during questioning!

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